There are many factors that influence an athlete’s performance and ensure that they achieve the goals they set out to safely.
How much can an athlete control to influence their performance?
Performing to the best of your physical abilities comes down to preparation and implementing a state where body and mind are ready to endure new levels of physical challenge.
So what can an athlete do to feel prepared? The answer lies in what they can control and optimize. The proactive athlete will control their nutrition, sleep and motivation.
One of the most effective ways to improve athletic performance is to focus on self-massage. Every athlete has a self-massage personal ritual they go through to prepare their body and mind for training and competition.
So how does self-massage improve performance?
Breaking up muscle adhesions:
Also known as “fascial restrictions”, the normal response to training and physical-stress adaption include loss of muscle stretch (elasticity) and dehydration.
The loss of elasticity is caused by fibrotic adhesions which effects multiple systems in the body, the muscle’s and group of muscles ability to generate force (decreased strength), decreased full motion through a joint (range of motion), decreased muscular endurance and even inefficient motor coordination. When we consider these together, fascial adhesions affect overall movement mechanics and result in sub-optimal performance.
Improve range of motion by restoring length-tension relationship:
Tight muscles can lead to changes in motion at the joint, especially for shoulder and hip. After sports training or your session in the weight room, it’s common to experience the feeling of stiffness the next day that limits our normal range of movement.
The stiffness you may feel is the result of fibrous adhesions. Fibrous adhesions affect muscle function and joint mechanics, and often can be painful. Using an effective self-massage tool can relieve this stiffness and tension. The most fascinating properties of fascia is that it is “thixotropic”. With the right amount of friction in the right areas, fascia can change to a more fluid-form which is essential for optimal performance.
Poor hydration leads to poor lubrication and sports injuries.
Dehydration (due to water extrusion) is another consequence of training and athletes are constantly trying to stay on top of it. Muscle tissue – skeletal muscle in this case – is powered and run on the body’s intricate system of electrolytes and electricity (electro-chemical gradient).
During movement the body utilises water, electrolytes and electrical impulses – similar to a battery – to regulate the muscle’s force production, to promote proper muscular firing and coordination to meet the exercise demands. Water also serves a very important role in maintaining cellular temperature and electrolyte concentration, tightness (hyper-tonicity), and linked to muscular cramps and spasms.
Self-massage prior to training an physical exertion is essential to prepare the body to its most optimal level the by ensuring that there is adequate blood flow, oxygen and also hydration.
Tight and stiff muscles, as a result of adhesions (soft tissue restrictions), can lead to restricted biomechanics, muscular imbalances and asymmetries. Take for example a runner where running technique determines running efficiency. A runner needs to have a good stride where the knee rises at least 40-50 degrees vertically. If the quadriceps muscles are tight and restricted this optimal range will not be accessible, the athlete will be working harder than needed and fatigue quicker. Looking at the glass as half full, there is untapped potential in personal self-myofascial release and improving movement mechanics.
If you are a smart athlete or trainer you will appreciate that self-massage for performance is half the equation. Once you have broken up the restriction, the next logical step is to challenge the new range of motion to optimise performance and, most importantly, stave off injuries.
Once you release tight and restricted areas, you create more freedom in the muscles tissue and joints. This assists absorbing shock and redirecting force, ready to deal with high forces sometimes 3 to 4 times your body weight.
The amazing thing about the body is that it adapts quickly. With the correct challenge of exercises, balance and coordination drills (reactive neoro-muscular training, RNT) you can safely prepare yourself to train and compete to your potential– also known as “corrective exercises” or “re-patterning”. Movement is a series of patterns uniquely pieced together and performance comes by practicing the desired movement with control and efficiency. Re-train your brain to re-train your muscles and movement. It’s simple, straightforward and you can learn to do it yourself.
- Strain hardening of fascia: Static stretching of dense fibrous connective tissues can induce a temporary stiffness increase accompanied by enhanced matrix hydration
- The immediate effect of bilateral self myofascial release on the plantar surface of the feet on hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility
- Comparing the effects of self-myofascial release with static stretching on ankle range-of-motion in adolescent athletes