Core Stability

The core is where the most of the body’s power is derived. It provides the foundation for
all movements of the arms and legs. The core must be strong, have dynamic flexibility
and function synergistically in its movements in order to achieve maximum performance.

  • Motion of the human body is not isolated to one muscle or tissue moving in one specific
    direction. Rather, it is a complex event involving agonists and antagonist structures that
    work together to create changes in position and/or location, and to stabilize the body in
    all three directional planes. Regardless of what sport one plays, it is essential to have core strength and trunk stability to maximize performance and prevent injury.

What Makes Up the Core
The foundation of the core is much more than the abdominal muscles. It includes
muscles deep within the torso, from the pelvis up to the neck and shoulders. The core
includes the following structures:

  • Multifidus – deep spinal muscles that run segmentally from the neck (C2) to the
    sacrum. They produce extension and, to a lesser degree, rotation and lateral
    flexion forces that provide stability to joints at individual levels of the spine.
  • Interspinales, Intertransversarii, Rotatores – deep structures that attach
    directly to the spinal column. These are very important for rotatory motion and
    lateral stability.
  • External Obliques – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs, pelvis,
    and abdominal fascia.
  • Internal Obliques – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs, rectus
    sheath, pelvis and thoracolumbar fascia.
  • Transversus Abdominis – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs,
    pelvis and thoracolumbar fascia, and rectus sheath.

These abdominal muscles work together to transmit a compressive force, and act to increase intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes the lumbar spine. They also work individually to perform trunk rotation, while the internal and external obliques on the same side can work together, or synergistically, to laterally flex the spine.
Rectus abdominis- abdominal muscle that attaches at the fifth through seventh ribs, the lower sternum and the front of the pubic bone. This muscle flexes the spine, compresses the internal organs of the abdomen and transmits forces laterally from the obliques. It is a common fallacy that the upper and lower rectus are isolated differently. Training the rectus can be done with one exercise.
Erector Spinae – help to counterbalance all the forces involved in spinal flexion. They begin as the sacrospinalis tendon that attaches at the sacrum and ilium. This tendon then gives rise to different muscles that run up the spine and obliquely to attach at lateral parts of the vertebrae and the ribs. In the cervical region, these muscles attach at the base of the skull.
Quadratus Lumborum – attaches at the 12th rib and the upper 4 lumbar vertebrae and the pelvis. It stabilizes the lumbar spine in all planes of motion, stabilizes the 12th rib and the attachment of the diaphragm during respiration and laterally flexes the trunk.
Latissimus Dorsi – this is the largest spinal stabilizer. It attaches via the thoracolumbar fascia to the lumbar vertebrae, sacrum and pelvis, and runs upward to the humerus. It assists in lumbar extension and stabilization, and also performs pulling motions through the arms.
Thoracolumbar Fascia – connects the latissimus dorsi, gluteal muscles, internal obliques and transverse abdominis, supplies tensile support to the lumbar spine, and is used for load transfer throughout the lumbar and thoracic regions.
Abdominal Fascia – connects to the obliques and rectus abdominis, and to the pectoralis major. Fascial connections that cross the midline transmit forces to the muscles of the opposite side of the body.

Training the Core
The common myth is that training the core simply involves sit ups and back extensions.
An efficient core routine consists of multiplanar movements – training in all planes of
motion. As the body moves, the center of gravity changes, and forces exerted by, and on,
the body’s tissues are constantly changing. Dynamic stabilization must be included to
increase proprioception and stability in the trunk, as well as in the rest of the body. This
allows the parts of the body to react efficiently to external forces and stresses, such as
gravity, changes in terrain, and carrying loads, as well as the internal forces exerted by
other muscles.

Dynamic stability is best achieved through training in functionally practical positions that mimic activities or movements in one’s particular sport, or in life as a whole. With this in mind, one can conclude that most core training that is done while sitting or lying down and limiting pelvic movement has little functional value. Medicine balls, balance boards and stability balls are great tools for core training and should be integrated into every program. Core exercises should include strengthening, as well as challenges such as standing one-legged and/or two-legged on stable and unstable surfaces, reacting to external forces such as a partner’s light push or the catching and throwing of a medicine ball, and moving the joints of the body through all planes of motion.

The goal of functional core training is to develop in the core a system of efficient
automatic responses to work as a stable base from which to generate optimal force and
motion.

Postural Distortion and Biomechanical Dysfunction
Consider how the chronic shortening of just one muscle, which happens to be a core
muscle, can impede performance and cause imbalances that lead to injuries. The rectus abdominis is a good example of an over worked muscle. As this muscle is overworked, the other core muscles are often ignored. Crunches, leg raises and exercises using abdominal machines all work only in the sagital plane, therefore limiting “benefit”
to muscles that produce hip and trunk flexion. (Note that repetitive trunk flexion places
increased injury-causing stress on the intervertebral discs of the lumbar spine). It is
imperative to train the core in a multi-planar fashion, especially the transverse plane, in
order to create stabilization in the trunk, and in effect more optimal posture, strength and motion in the entire body. The following is a common example of the result of
overworking the rectus abdominis. A tight rectus abdominis, when creating tension, or pull, on its upper and lower attachments, including the anterior pelvis, anterior ribs and inferior sternum, produces a flexion force in the trunk. This has consequences beyond the immediate structures affected.

These consequences include a chain of effects that begin with shortening and tightening
of the pectoral muscles. These muscles will exert an inferior tension on the clavicle,
superior ribs, and the anterior scapula and will assist in internally rotating the humerus.
The force of gravity also contributes to the internal rotation of the glenohumeral, or
shoulder joint, as the trunk flexes forward. Internal rotation of the humerus tensions and lengthens the external rotators of the shoulder which in combination with the tension exerted on the anterior scapula by the pecs, will bring the scapula into protraction, lengthening and weakening the middle and lower trapezius, and rhomboid muscles. (Note that a tight latissimus dorsi can also be a primary contributor to internal rotation of the humerus.) The internally rotated humerus and protracted scapula will place the rotator cuff muscles at a biomechanical disadvantage in dynamically stabilizing the glenohumeral joint. The cuff will not function effectively, increasing the risk of injury. The reaction of the cervical spine is two-fold. The lower segments of the cervical spine follow the forward and downward movement of the trunk, and they themselves flex, causing lengthening and weakening of the deep cervical flexor muscles. (This can also stress the outer layer of the intervertebral discs, which over time, may lead to injury.) Naturally, if the lower cervical spine flexes forward, the head will follow, and if this force is not countered, gravity will cause the head to fall forward. In order to prevent this from happening, tension will develop in the cervical extensors, including the upper trapezius, splenius, semispinalis, spinalis and sub-occipital groups, which attach to the base of the skull. The upper cervical segments including the base of the skull are extended, shortening the sub-occiptal muscles. This extension will allow the skull to remain somewhat level as it rests on the atlas, or the uppermost cervical vertebrae. The over-working of the upper trapezius muscle and lengthening and weakening of the middle and lower trapezius and the rhomboids will also contribute to early elevation of the scapula with shoulder motion. This will worsen the position of the glenohumeral joint and will further stress the rotator cuff. This example has been limited to the rectus abdominis. It is important to understand that single muscles are rarely the isolated culprits in postural distortions and biomechanical dysfunction. (An exception would be an acute specific muscle injury that has not healed correctly and has caused compensatory overloading in other areas.) Because muscles act synergistically and as agonists and antagonists, there is usually more than one contributor. There are also connections between muscles through tough fascial connective tissue, which help to transmit forces between tissues. These cases of dysfunction can be rooted in other parts of the body, as the musculoskeletal system functions as a whole. Not only will these faulty positions and compensatory biomechanics cause an athlete to move inefficiently. Over time they may lead to degenerative processes in the soft tissues and joints that will lead to further injury and impairment.
The neurological system also adapts to these changes, applying muscle memory, as it
controls the musculature. Training this system is essential in developing healthy
neurological pathways and muscle firing patterns. This is achieved through the methods
mentioned above – using medicine balls, balance boards and stability balls and
challenging the neuromuscular system. Any of the muscles mentioned above may be the source of dysfunctional patterns, but it will most likely be a combination of them that will be the cause. It is important to follow the entire kinetic chain when assessing and treating these conditions.
Cycling
Most cyclists focus on their hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles, and forget about
the importance of core stability. Consider how many hours the cyclist spends bent over in a flexed position on the aerobars, with no rotational or side bending motions. A strong core is needed to counterbalance these forces. With a focus on the core, a cyclist can generate more power and can sustain a higher level of intensity for longer periods. A stronger core also means less stress on the primary muscle movers and a delay in the build up of lactic acid. Even minor changes such as brake position can affect core stability. If the brake handle position is too low, the cyclist is forced to reach too far forward with their forearms. This reaching position forces the cyclist to raise their head forcing the pelvic girdle posterior. This position can cause a restriction in several key
muscles in the core, thus reducing performance. The ideal position for the forearms is to have the elbows bent and the forearms flattened out. In this position, the cyclist head drops into a more comfortable aerodynamic position, and the pelvis tilts forward. In this
position, the cyclist is able to use all the core muscles with improved efficiency.

Running
Now consider how a shortened rectus abdominis affects a tri-athletes performance during running. Although opinions about the ‘ideal running form’ vary greatly, most authorities will agree that the less energy that is expended, the more effective and efficient the running style will be.

When performing a biomechanical analysis, it is very common to see numerous
imbalances of which the athlete is completely unaware. By video taping an athlete during activity the practitioner can show and explain what is happening then correct it.
When analyzing a runner, some of the most common biomechanical faults looked
for are:
• Over-pronation (rolling in as arches collapse) in the feet – this can cause a series
of biomechanical imbalances from the foot up to the cervical spine.
• Excessive hip adduction – due to tight hip adductors and can cause increased load
in the lateral tissues such as the iliotibial band, tensor fascia lata and gluteus
medius.
• Lack of trunk rotation – due to restrictions in trunk rotators or shoulder extensors.

This can cause overload in the hip musculature, spinal joints, and other trunk
rotators.
• Lack of hip extension – caused by tight hip flexors restricting extension, and weak
gluteal muscles. This causes the extensors and rotators of the lumbar spine to
become overloaded in order to compensate for the lack of hip extension.
• Lack of shoulder extension – caused by restrictions in anterior shoulder muscles
or poor trunk rotation.

Educating yourself on how the core works will help to avoid injury, improve your athletic performance and increase training efficiency. Far too often people read the most popular book or take advice from someone who they think knows more than they do.
This cookie cutter approach does not take into account the persons specific needs and
goals. In my opinion anyone who participates in any sport or activity should have a
professional evaluate them for any weaknesses or poor movement patterns. I can’t tell
you how many patients have told me “It just started hurting I never did anything to it”. A
simple evaluation can save you from repetitive stress injuries.
Written by
Dr. Robert Inesta
Charles DeFrancesco
http://www.fitandfunctional.com

References:
1. McGill, S, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance: Ontario. Wabuno Publishers. 2004.
2. Kendall FP, McCreary EK, Provance PG. Muscles: Testing and Function. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams
and Wilkins. 1993.
3. Runnersworld.com

Improving Your Golf Performance

Golf Analysis:

Your golf swing is all about proper body mechanics. A good golf swing requires full rotational capacity of nearly every joint involved and must be done – efficiently – easily – explosively – repeatedly. Many swing faults are directly attributable to poor joint mobility, resulting from soft-tissue restrictions.

A proper golf analysis will focus on the following:

  • Determining which structures are affected along the Golfers kinetic chain. We focus on more than just the chief area of restriction.
  • Identifying the antagonistic structures (opposing muscle groups) to those that have been identified as the primary structures causing the imbalance.
    Since function and performance is based upon balance and coordination, an opposing soft-tissue structure is always affected by restrictions in the primary structure.
  • Treating each soft-tissue dysfunction with the appropriate technique to restore full function to the affected structures.

The result is almost most always an improvement in Golf performance. Using this process has helped hundreds of Golfers achieve their goals and prevent numerous injuries from occurring.

Common swing faults occur due to tight shoulder, tightness in the hip joint, spinal injuries, and repetitive strain injuries. When shoulder rotation is restricted the body compensates with excessive spinal rotation. This can result in back injury because most people already lack flexibility in the spine. In addition, golfers will notice that they have difficulties in keeping their eyes on the ball and/or maintaining an optimal swing plane. This results in fat or thin shots. When the golfer attempts to compensate at the shoulder joint, the chances of a hook or slice increases. Tightness in the hip joint rotational muscles places additional strain on the rotational requirements of the shoulder or spine. Often a golfer will compensate by lifting up during the back swing and then chop down on the ball resulting in a fat shot. Wrist and elbow injuries often occur when the body does not have the capacity to effectively compensate at either the shoulder or spine. The wrists are then over-used to drive as well as decelerate the golf club. These swing faults are often easily corrected by addressing the physical restriction the golfer has in their body.

Stretching is often not enough to release these restrictions

Even individuals such as professional golfers who are constantly stretching find it difficult to release soft-tissue adhesions. This is why so many professional and amateur golfers are turning to Active Release Technique (ART), Graston, Acupuncture and stretching to release and remove these restrictions.

Often muscle groups will literally adhere to each other, preventing the sliding necessary for full mobility. During normal stretching, the first tissue that elongates may not be the scar tissue, but the normal healthy tissue. After the restriction has been removed an effective program of stretching will often be enough to stop the restrictions from returning.

Applying soft tissue techniques to golf related injuries

In order to effectively balance your muscles and remove joint restrictions, you must first identify your unique pattern of muscle imbalances. By utilizing a series of muscle balance and swing analysis tests,  the exact type, extent, and location of muscle restriction can be identified.  The use of ART treatments and follow-up stretches will help remove and resolve these restrictions, in addition to strengthening the muscles with weight training to prevent re-injury.

 

Written by:

Dr. Robert Inesta

Charles DeFrancesco

 

 

Why Does Everything Hurt?

As we get older,  it seems as if we discover a new ache or a pain in our body every day that never bothered us before.  Many of us are plagued by chronic pain and we often do not know how to alleviate it. Part of the issue is that we are constantly doing things during the day which exacerbate our symptoms and we don’t even realize it. Additionally, as we get older, we often forget that our bodies are not quite as resilient; after a week of sedentary behavior, we will hit the gym or play sports full-force on the weekend which lead to us injuring ourselves.

One of the most common complaints is lower back pain. This often results from sitting for too long and from sitting incorrectly. Sometimes lower back pain can be a result of a disc injury or arthritis, but for most of us, it is just the result of not moving enough. First, position your desk so you are sitting with proper posture. It is also important to get up for frequent breaks and to stretch and to move around. Outside the office, lower back pain can be exacerbated while exercising. It is imperative to make sure you are not using your lower back during weight lifting or other exercises. Instead, focus on activating the hips and glutes to protect your lower back during your workouts. Additionally, strengthen your core muscles to stabilize your trunk, which will also decrease the load on your back.

Another common malady is neck pain and stiffness. This can result from sitting improperly, walking incorrectly, driving with your head jutting forward, or from sleeping with you neck turned.  Also, stress and tension play a significant role in neck pain and stiffness as well.  Neck pain can increase outside during exercise as well. Often, while performing exercises, we lead with our chin and put extra pressure and strain on our necks without realizing it. Proper form and activation is key to keep the neck pain free. Meditation, stretching and other stress relief techniques are also helpful for decreasing neck pain.

Other common ailments are knee pain, joint pains, muscle strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome. If symptoms are severe and you do not see improvement, you should visit a doctor to rule out a major injury. Assuming there is no disc issue or major tear, sprain or break, many of these problems are caused by our activities of daily living and improper form during therapeutic and strength exercises. The way we sit, walk, talk on the phone, sleep, and exercise all impact how our body moves and feels. Form during exercise is extremely important. Many clients don’t realize their positioning is off and might be affecting their mobility, flexibility, cardio endurance, and strength.

Most people will feel better by engaging in a routine that includes stretching to improve join mobility. It is helpful to use tools like a foam roller or baseball to alleviate knots and to help stretching. Secondly, weight loss often helps with daily aches and pains. Extra weight can put pressure on the joints and cause pain and discomfort. A healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise can help decrease weight and issues with pain. Lastly, strength training, especially core training, helps decrease muscle pain because the muscles stabilize the joints.

It seems like the answer to feeling better and decreasing pain is to engage in physical activity with proper form. Always make your body a priority! If necessary, meet with a personal trainer to ensure you are performing exercises correctly and to make sure you are utilizing exercises to help with your individual issues.

Living With Back Pain

Back pain can be a debilitating and life altering problem for many Americans. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of Americans will experience some type of back pain in their lifetime. Most of the time back pain is an uncomfortable annoyance, although in some cases, it may be serious and require medical attention. Pain is usually associated with how our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons work together.

While back pain can occur at any age, it more commonly effects those between 35-55 years old. Other risk factors for back pain include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, anxiety, depression, smoking, pregnancy, sleep disorders, obesity, strenuous physical activity, and strenuous exercise, especially if exercises are not performed correctly. There are many possible causes of back pain, but the most common is due to strained muscles, strained ligaments, and muscle spasms due to heavy lifting, improper lifting form, or abrupt or awkward movements. For most of the population, everyday activities, poor posture or a bad mattress are frequently responsible for back pain.  This may be the result of sitting or standing too long, driving for long periods, sitting in a hunched position, over-stretching, bending awkwardly, or pushing/pulling/carrying items. Back problems may also be due to structural problems, such as ruptured disks, bulging disks, sciatica, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. More seriously, pain may sometimes be due to cancer of the spine, spinal infections, bladder or kidney infections, and shingles, so contact a doctor if your pain is accompanied by fever, inflammation, numbness, pain radiating down the legs, or incontinence.

In most cases, back pain can be treated at home and will not need imaging scans or treatment by a physician, though surgery may be indicated for those with structural issues.  For pain, doctors usually suggest over the counter NSAIDS, codeine, and cortisone injections. To alleviate pain, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, shiatsu, chiropractic manipulation, and osteopathy are also sometimes recommended. TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) may also be utilized; it emits small electric pulses through electrodes on the skin.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid back pain altogether?  Well, there are steps you can take to prevent the onset of back pain. First, adopt healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a normal body weight. Additionally, it is important to engage in regular exercise to build strength and flexibility. Physical activity also helps to prevent obesity, which, on its own, is a risk factor for back pain. It is also important to be aware of your posture both when sitting and standing and to correct poor posture as often as possible. When standing, keep a neutral pelvis with straight legs, stand upright, and keep your head forward. While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your knees and hips are level. Your arms should be at right angles if you are using a keyboard, and your lower back should be supported. Next, be careful when lifting. Always bend your knees, never twist and lift, and push rather than pull objects!  Finally, make sure you have a supportive mattress so that your spine can remain straight.

If you follow these suggestions, you can help reduce the onset of back pain and also alleviate some of your discomfort if back pain does occur. Be as active as possible in a safe and effective way, and you can keep your body moving pain free as long as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Core Strong

In the world of exercise, the core is a common focus. Often we hear about how important it is to strengthen our core and to improve core stability, but what exactly does this mean? The core is made up of much more than the abdominal muscles. In fact, most of the power in the body is derived from the core.  It is imperative to have core strength and stability in order to prevent injury and to increase performance. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what the core is and how we can strengthen it effectively.

The core connects the upper body to the lower body and it affects how we move these body parts. It is involved in activities of daily living, such as bending and lifting, sitting properly at a desk, housework, gardening, sports, balance and stability, good posture, and preventing back pain. Weak core muscles can negatively affect your daily functions. With our sedentary lifestyles, most of us have weak cores. We need to continually work at strengthening these muscles.

The core is made up of muscles from the neck and shoulders down to the pelvis. These include the multifidus, interspinales, intertransversarii, rotatores, internal and external obliques, transversus abdonminis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia, and abdominal fascia. Therefore, core training is not as simple as doing sit-ups.  It is important to train all of the core muscles, not just the “abs,” for effective movement. The core transfers force and acts as a stabilizer, which is why it is important to train the core dynamically in all planes of motion rather than in isolation. Therefore, deadlifts, squats, pushups, pikes to pushups, and planks would be much more effective at training the core than sit-ups. These exercises will create more efficient movement and increased strength. Further, the core should be engaged while weight training other body parts in order to develop core strength. It is important to note that many traditional core exercises do not adequately recruit the abs and have been shown to damage the lower back.

Core stability creates efficient movement and proper positioning to prevent injury. For example, if a cyclist reaches too far forward while biking, it changes the position of the hips and pelvis, which affects posture and power. Similarly, while running, tight hips and lack of hip extension can cause the lower back to hurt and affect performance. It is helpful to use a foam roller to decrease inflammation and tension and to prevent restrictive movement before exercising.  Additionally, meeting with a personal trainer to learn the proper form will ensure you are exercising effectively in order to reach all of your fitness goals.

Don’t neglect your core, since it is the foundation for your health and fitness. The stronger the core, the stronger you are and the better you will feel.  A stronger core equals a more solid you!

Please click on this link for some effective core exercises: http://thearenafitness.com/exercise-library/exercise-gallery/images/pdf/exercise_pdfs/3_core.pdf

Osteoporosis & Exercise

Over 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass.  Osteoporosis is defined as a disease which weakens the bones so they become fragile and break easily. It is especially prevalent in the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist. Often, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because the person does not exhibit symptoms or knows he/she has it until a bone is broken or the vertebrae in the spine collapse.

While anyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, it is more common in older women, especially non-Hispanic, white women and Asian women. Other risk factors include being small and thin, having low bone density, taking certain medications, and/or having a family history of osteoporosis. Bone mass can be tested with a bone mineral test.

There are a few ways you can prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong, such as consuming a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. Falls are the number one cause of broken bones, so weight bearing exercise and balance are extremely important to prevent falls and to increase bone density. If bones become extremely fragile, fractures can also occur through normal daily activities, such as bending, lifting, coughing, or from minor bumps or stresses.

Exercise improves bone health, muscle strength, coordination, balance, and overall health, and it is vital for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and strength training exercises are both recommended for peak bone mass because you are working against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. They can be either low impact or high impact. Strength training is also known as resistance exercise, and it includes lifting weights, using bands and balls, and utilizing your own body weight. Yoga and pilates are also great options since they improve flexibility, balance, and strength, but certain positions will need to be avoided to avoid spinal injury.

Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you have osteoporosis. You may have to avoid bending, twisting, and flexing to protect your spine if your bone mass is low. Additionally, high-intensity exercises should be avoided to avoid fractures. It is important to stretch and strengthen the muscles properly and to improve posture. It is good idea to consult with a personal trainer to learn how to perform exercises properly and how to progress your activities and routines.

 

References:
The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/ (National Osteoprosis Foundation)

Foam Rolling

Foam rollers have become very popular in gyms as they can be used for all fitness levels for training and recovery. However, many people don’t know the correct way to foam roll or the reasons why they are beneficial. Foam rolling is self-myofascial release, which is a method of self-massage that releases tight muscles and knots (trigger points). The goal is to release the muscles in order to increase elasticity for proper functioning, to improve flexibility, and to reduce inflammation.

Muscles are surrounded by fibrous connective tissue called fascia. Over time, individuals may develop painful points along the muscle and fascia due to trauma from injury, scar tissue, or structural imbalances. These trigger points can shorten the muscle, restrict blood flow to the muscle, and restrict mobility, which causes inflammation and pain and inhibits motion. This can lead to additional problems with posture, joint alignment, neuromuscular transmission, and exercise form, all of which make the body more vulnerable to injury. Further, the surrounding muscles then have to compensate for the weakened areas and may become strained due to overuse. Foam rolling helps the fascia stay mobile, and removing the knots enables exercises to be more effective so that structural balance and joint stability is restored, flexibility is increased, and stress on the surrounding muscles is decreased.

When our muscles are tight, we are often uncomfortable and display poor movement patterns. Our muscles can become tight for a variety of reasons ranging from poor posture, poor flexibility, training, hydration status, stress, sleep, etc. The idea behind foam rolling is to break up muscle knots, prevent knots from developing and create normal blood flow and nerve function back to the area. This decreases recovery time after a workout and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally, a greater range of motion allows for more effective workouts since there are no muscular restrictions. The ideal time to use a foam roller is before your workout as it will increase range of motion and bring blood to the tissues. In addition to foam rollers, tennis balls, golf balls and lacrosse balls can be used to break up muscle adhesions.

When foam rolling tight muscles, you will frequently feel pain which may radiate to another area. This pain should be uncomfortable, but certainly not unbearable. You can foam roll any muscle in your body by using moderate pressure and your bodyweight. When you locate tight/painful areas, you should concentrate on rolling those areas slowly, letting the muscle relax. If the pain is too intense, roll the surrounding areas instead and slowly work your way into the painful area. Do not overwork knots or painful areas, as this may damage the tissue. Avoid rolling bones or joints. Roll slowly. Make sure your form and posture is correct. Using a personal trainer to guide you will ensure that you do not cause more damage and will reach the muscle in the most effective way.

Not only are foam rollers beneficial for muscles, but they are also brain exercisers since the brain and nervous system need to be retrained to correct faulty movement patterns. The use of foam rollers requires complete concentration since they are unstable. Unstable exercises also improve proprioception and challenge core muscles.

Overall, foam rollers are a great tool that should be used by everyone in the gym, no matter their fitness level, to enhance their workout and prevent injury.

To see videos on how to foam roll properly, head to our video category & check them out!