The Truth About Flexibility And Why You Are Likely Wasting Your Efforts Part 2
By Erik Strouse, MS
VIDA Fitness Trainer
Welcome back VIDA readers! I hope my suspense from the last article on flexibility didn’t leave you on the edge of your seat for too long! Just as a quick recap, in the last article I discussed why just performing static stretching, which is the normal approach by many when it comes to flexibility training, is not adequate, and is actually working against yourself. Lack of flexibility stems from sedentary lifestyles causing muscles to shorten when seated for extended periods of time. Further, a lack of adequate movement throughout the day causes muscle strength around the joints to weaken, but because stability is still required, muscles will tighten up to provide it. Static stretching will temporarily lengthen a muscle, but because the above problems are not solved, the tightness will continue to foster itself.
Now lets get into some more science here, as again, it is important to understand this so that you can truly know how to improve flexibility. Each and every one of our muscles is encased in a connective tissue called fascia. Think of a chicken breast, and more specifically that white, thin film that covers the actual breast meat. In the image provided, the chicken breast on the left has the Fascia still on it, whereas the breast on the right has it removed. This connective tissue is VERY tough. Think about a time when you tried to pull it apart. It probably didn’t budge without a razor sharp knife. This is necessary because the Fascia gives the soft tissues of our body their necessary structure and rigidity to sustain upright posture. Because Fascia is so strong and tough, it takes constant stress to change its shape. When you sit down all day, you meet this constantly applied stress, and it adapts to that position. Think about that for a second. If it’s strong enough to hold us upright and has taken a lifetime to adapt to a seated posture, what will it take to get it to change? Static stretching for 30-60 seconds a day simply cannot compete with that lifetime. However, there are other methods of flexibility training that will make profound changes on the Fascia.
For starters, addressing the Fascia system directly is necessary, and should be your #1 step in improving flexibility. The awesome thing about the Fascia system is by having direct pressure applied to it, you can change it’s ability to mold. Further, direct pressure to the Fascia can instantly increase a muscles range of motion. Although this is temporary if other actions are not taken, it is a great way to jumpstart the process.
So, how do you address the Fascia system directly? The answer is Self-Myofascial Release (SMFR), also known as “foam rolling”. SMFR is more or less a self-applied sports massage. Massages are very well known and documented to improve range of motion and flexibility. Just think of your first massage and how AWESOME you felt after. AURA Spa has a great selection of sport massages, but reality is, you need to have this done daily to get the necessary change in the Fascia system to permanently change your flexibility.
Applying SMFR is not a simple procedure, and precaution needs to be taken to not cause any inflammation or joint capsule damage. What’s more, SMFR is known to be rather “painful” when done. When a member experiences pain in the body of the muscle tissue, it means they SHOULD BE DOING IT. Pain will decrease, if not entirely go away, the more frequently you do it. When you get to this point, you are in an awesome position to improve your range of motion and flexibility.
A well-targeted SMFR program is not cookie cutter, as everyone has different muscular imbalances. You can certainly perform SMFR at our VIDA clubs, as each club has a plethora of rollers throughout the various floors and club sections. If you would like more detail on how to approach this topic, contact me directly. It is worth learning about in a more in-depth manner, and I can assure you, if done, you will not regret it. In fact, this is Step #1 for planning to age well. Your life will be exponentially better if you do this consistently going forward.
To not stray too far from the overall topic, SMFR is just Step #1 of a multiple step process to improve flexibility. I will have more posts on the remaining steps coming shortly. Stay tuned, or please send me an email at email@example.com for more info. You will not regret learning the right way to do this.