How To Reduce Muscle Tension Instantly
Myofascial release is a method of stimulating your soft tissue in order to boost muscle health. It's a way of applying pressure to your soft tissue in order to release tension and improve elasticity. By applying pressure and gliding the muscle over this pressure we are able to reduce the tension in the muscle and cause it to relax.
This article outlines a quick guide to performing myofascial release on the posterior chain of the body, so the muscles which run down the back of our bodies. And will help you if you feel tightness in the lower back, hamstrings, glutes or calfs. It will make you more flexible almost instantly.
It's important to note that our muscles do not work in isolation, and quite often pain is referred to appear in a different area. This is because our muscles are quite literally linked together in a 'chain'. So if you feel pain in the hamstrings, it is quite possible that the real problem is rooted in lower back tightness for example.
The fascia is like a capsule which surrounds the muscle and is far more elasticated and easier to manipulate than the muscle itself. Having tight fascia can really hinder your flexibility and contributes to stiffness by up to as much as 40%!
As you roll on the ball, the soft tissue stetches over the ball and receptors within the muscle are also stretched. This then tells your central nervous system that the tissue is being stretched and a signal is consequently sent back down to the muscle instructing it to relax. Pretty clever stuff! And this whole process is called 'reflexive inhibition'.
This self massage not only relieves tension, but also causes your blood vessels to vasodilate resulting in increased blood flow to the area. More blood flow means more nutrients, and this means faster healing and recovery as dead cells and unwanted materials are also removed faster too.
The other great thing about this technique is that you will see quicker results than simply static stretching, it can be done before or after a match or training and will improve performance and strength (unlike static stretching which will hinder performance and power output if done prior to playing).
*Please note: this technique is painful, but it is good pain. Your muscles should not be painful when pressure is applied to them, if they are...this is a sign of tightness. You should focus on these areas, get as deep as you can and you will feel the muscle gradually release and the pain go away. The harder the ball the better, so: a hard tennis ball, cricket ball, golf ball, hockey ball.
Refer to the video above after reading the following steps, these are the key ones, but you'll find a few extra in the video:
- Position the ball underneath your foot between the ball of the foot and the heel
- Roll slowly and firmly over areas of tightness
- Atleast 1 minute per foot
- Put your weight onto your hands and the ball underneath your calf muscle
- Roll all the way from the bottom of the achilles to the top of the calf
- Search for areas of tightness
- Atleast 1 minute per leg
- Sit on box and position the ball underneath your hamstring
- Flex and extend the leg whilst leaning forwards with your upper body
- You can move the ball to find tighter areas
- 15 flex/extends per leg
- Sit down on the ground and find the bony bit you can feel at the side of your hip, your rotators radiate from this point
- Place the ball behind this bone, lean back on your arms
- Bend and extend the knee slowly (does not need to be hovering)
- Repeat for 30s per area of tightness you find
- Find the pointy bit of bone at the front of your hip
- Just below this and to the outside you will find a patch of muscle
- Lay on your side and lower this area onto the ball, you'll know when you've hit the right spot!
- Now slowly attempt to lie fully down on your side
- 1 minute per side
- Lie on your back and bend one knee up
- Place the ball under the lower back, to the side of the spine (not touching) and between the pelvis and back of the ribs where you can feel and area of soft tissue
- Lie back putting your weight onto the ball and bring your knee into your chest and out again, feeling the ball pushing into this area of tight muscle
- Repeat for 30 seconds per side
- Repeat as needed up the back
And that's it! You can do this before training or matches to improve flexibility, mobility and blood flow. And you can also do it after a match to again bring new blood to remove the toxins which have been built up in the muscle, meaning faster recovery. The more you do this the easier it will get.
You can find the entire myofascial release, muscle activation and pre-match optimisation routine inside our programme!