I would estimate from what my clients tell me, that maybe ten percent of them stretch before starting to exercise. And of those that do stretch, maybe only half of those use myofascial stretching as opposed to traditional stretching. Typically, people are trying to help themselves feel better, but in reality, they are sabotaging their efforts by not stretching correctly or at all. Of those that do stretch, they can enhance their performance and reduce injury by using myofascial stretching.
So, what’s the difference?
Traditional stretching which is still widely used by most physical therapists, athletic trainers and personal trainers teaches you to hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds and usually for 3-5 repetitions. Some you may notice that some people even bounce while engaging the stretch. While this type of stretching can provide some positive effect on your muscles, it is only for the short term. To fully engage the soft tissue for a truly effective stretch, it is necessary to release the fascia too.
Why is this important?
We know from science that fascia is stronger than muscle, so it follows that if there is a unreleased fascial restriction preventing the muscle from reaching its potential it will not function properly and in fact, may lead to injury.
Myofascial stretching is different in two basic ways. First, it does not force the stretch like traditional stretching. Start the stretch and when you feel the first hint of a pull, stop and back off from that. It’s almost like an imaginary stretch in your mind. Allow your body to lead you and follow it as it releases. The second major difference is that we hold the stretch for three to five minutes. It takes at least a minute and a half to three minutes for a fascial restriction to get one to two releases, so that’s why we suggest holding longer than that.
You can use myofascial stretching in place of your regular stretching no matter what area you’re trying to stretch. Also, with myofascial stretching, you can use a 4″ ball (as shown in the above photo), a foam roller, a Nola Rola ™ or whatever else you typically use while stretching.
Just remember, never force the stretch and give yourself enough time to stretch before you exercise. You will be amazed at how much better your body feels when you start using myofascial stretching in your routine.
Call me at 916-363-7173 if you have questions about this article and to set myofascial release therapy appointments. I offer one hour individual instruction covering myofascial stretching, use of the 4″ ball and foam roller. I will customize the class to your specific needs.
You can also contact Sara Beacham at B Fit Physical Fitness with questions about stretching. She specializes in helping runners of all levels reach their goals. Her website is https://www.chicobfit.com/ and FB page is https://www.facebook.com/chicobfit?fref=ts.