Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Self-Myofascial Release

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Contributed by Deniz Hekmati – Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Sport Scientist 

Deniz Hekmati provides regular content on strength and conditioning as Swimming World’s dryland contributor.

Self-myofascial release is a trending topic in the fitness and swimming world. Tools to perform this include the use of foam rollers, mobility balls and even our own hands.

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What is Fascia?

The fascia is a sheet covering the entire body that layers between the skin and the muscles and organs in the body. As the body develops, the fascia gets tighter. Similarly, if the body is exposed to an injury to an area.

Tension and immobility of the fascia is most noticeable with areas being sensitive by touching, or grabbing the skin and muscles.

Suspectedly, injuries may be having a root cause from tight fascia. Tension around fascia is arguably where a loss of range of motion is seen. If not addressed, other areas may tense up as a result.

What does it do?

Self-myofascial release enhances the function of the fascia, its mobility. It improves range of motion, and potentially blood flow to targeted areas depending on the intensity.

It does not seem to have any immediate effects of performance increases. Rather, it aids in recovery and reduces post practice soreness. However, it is then fair to assume that increased time of addressing the fascia over longer periods of training will have a positive effect on long-term performance.

This would be considered more relevant for athletes who are injured and immobile. For developing athletes, self-myofascial release techniques are also great in developing awareness of how the body is feeling.

How?

By using equipment such as foam rollers, mobility balls, and even our own hands. This is called palpitation and is perhaps the most overlooked way, but perhaps one of my favorite ways to have a sense of how my body is feeling. Its only downsides are that it looks very funny when you are squeezing yourself in awkward positions.

The Problem

Individuals who are jumping right on to aggressive self-myofascial release without a warm up because “it feels good.” To have lasting effects, the body needs to be properly warmed up.

The body is constantly giving feedback of how the muscles and fascia are doing. Many tends to shy away and avoid tender and painful areas. It’s simple to roll to another spot once it gets uncomfortable.

Not enough swimmers are utilizing technique before a lifting session, or swim workout. Instead, we see added work on dryland and recovery modalities, such as self-myofascial release technique gets neglected.

Lastly, getting to see a physical therapist or athletic trainer can get costly for many families. Learning how to manage injuries will be a financial savor and a performance game changer.

Solution

Grabbing on to the skin in an area suspected of injury, or exposed to past injury – does it feel tight? This is an easy way to get a sense if the muscle is tight is if the skin is sensitive to grab. You just need to start exploring your body.

A 5-minute movement warm-up with movements either body weight or bands before digging in to the fascia. If this is post-practice, no need to worry about it.

If there is a tender muscle, hold that position, take a deep breath, and dig deeper in to the area, while making effort to contract the muscle that is tender, and has become partly inactive. Two things happen. The brain is being rewired to create a new relationship to the tense or injured area. That is information the body can use to its advantage during weight room movements. The muscles are also getting more breathing room and blood flow, which enhances the recovery.

If this is done a few minutes on areas that are going to be targeted in the weight room, it will enhance the movement quality for the swimmer and reduce the risk of getting injured in a position that is unfamiliar. Again, based on research today, it does not seem to have any direct impact on performance, as much as it does for post-performance fatigue and recovery.

Underestimated areas:

Feet

Grab a mobility ball, or an exercise weight. Explore your feet. Contract and relax, and scan through the entire foot. If you have rolled an ankle in the past, you may have some stuff going on. If you have no issues here, you are one of the lucky ones!

Subscapularis

Underneath armpit on the front side of the scapula, it gets overworked easily in swimmers. This is an awkward spot to find the spot on the foam roller or mobility balls, attempt to push the thumb to the top part and outside of the armpit.

Pec Minor

These muscles are shown to be significantly shorter in swimmers with shoulder pain. It can also get awkward to get in to some position. Try this, make a claw with your one hand and cross over to the shoulder where the pecs. You can also use a foam roller and a mobility ball to increase the pressure. It’s release will allow for smoother overhead movements and less shoulder pain.

See more videos from Swimmer Strength Coach Deniz Hekmati:

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Age to Start Dryland Training or Strength Training

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: When to Add Weight to Strength Training

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: McGill 3 Core Exercises

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Shoulder Pain

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Yoga and Swimming

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Foam Rolling for Swimmers

About Coach Deniz Hekmati, MS, CSCS

Deniz Hekmati is a strength & conditioning specialist and sport scientist. A Sweden-native, he was a breaststroker at Arizona State University and a silver medalist at the Swedish National Championships. In his coaching career, he has worked with age-groupers, high schoolers, collegiate teams, and elite level post graduate athletes. Deniz’s philosophy is to learn each athlete’s individual stage of physical and mental readiness, and then design the most appropriate training protocol in a way that resonates with the individual and team.  He offers in-person or online training.  Try his 10-day free online training.

 

Note: All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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