Tight muscles or “knots” as they are often referred to, are a common problem for athletes. Here at ESS we have multiple strategies for dealing with tightness that our athletes can take advantage of.
Muscle tightness can be caused by several factors. As active athletes, you may be surprised to learn that these factors are made up not only from training aspects but include our resting posture and occupation.
In the case of people who sit at a desk, in front of a computer all day, we often find that they have tight hip flexors and are tight through their pec major and anterior shoulder, with glutes and back muscles lengthened. This results in an anterior tilted pelvis and rounded shoulders.
Note: Anterior tilting of the pelvis can cause someone to think they have tight hamstrings as they are put on stretch, whereas they are actually already lengthened. Further stretching of the hamstring can then lead to tears and injury – asking a coach to reassess your posture can go a long way to ensuring you are getting the correct treatment.
Static stretching is often used to resolve these “tightness” spots, although when doing this it is generally only the healthy part of the muscle that is stretched. The shortened, poor portion of the muscle doesn’t get the benefit and ultimately this invariably leads to over-stretching of the muscle/tendons. Think of a muscle as an elastic band. If part of the elastic band is dried up and tight, it’s unwilling to stretch. If we did stretch the elastic band, the healthy part of the band would stretch rather than the poor quality, tight area.
To gain any benefit, we need to address the poor quality part of the elastic band in order to restore the entire elastic band to its original state. Muscles act in much the same way so we need another method to break up these tight spots.
We employ massage Self Myofascial Release (SMFR) to loosen up tight spots. By using a small ball (baseball/golf ball) and rolling over it in areas you want to treat, you can really get into those tight areas, albeit with a fair bit of temporary pain, as you endeavour to break up the knots and relieve the muscle of tightness.
The muscles, being in their tight state, generally like to return to that, so we recommend multiply sessions of massage or SMFR to help truly restore the muscle tissue to proper health.
And you all know that it’s better to prevent than have to cure so never forget that we encourage correct posture and accurate movement patterns. There’s no better way to help prevent tight muscles from reoccurring or with diligence, making sure the problems are minimised in the first place.
Jereme Russell was an Intern and Coach with ESS from 2016-2017