Darrin

I’m a big fan of stretching.  Well, maybe that needs a qualifier…  Let me explain.

I’m a big fan of

  1. General dynamic stretching before a lifting/running/exercise session
  2. Specific warm-up sets before lifting heavy
  3. General static stretching and foam rolling after a session or on off days (or just about any time)
By “general” I mean full-body, and “specific” means related to the loaded movement you will be doing in your session.

The first and second occur in the same time window as your exercise session but the third, well, that gets dicey.

See, most people blow off #3.  And if they do #3, they do it before their session – the exact wrong time to do it.

Since I almost always train in the morning, I tend to do #3 in the evening.  However, life sometimes gets in the way.  And I forget.  Or simply don’t feel like it (yeah, I’m human too).

So I’ve taken to public stretching.

Public Stretching?

By public stretching, I mean stretching in public.  At the mall.  In your office break room.  At the airport.  While watching TV with your family (ok, maybe that’s not too public but trust me, if you’ve got teen and pre-teen daughters, ANY stretching they see you do is “public” and embarrassing).

Seriously, traveling is one of the worst things to do to your body but I never see anyone doing real stretching at the airport.  I travel by plane many times a year and I am honest when I say I have never seen it.  Once in a while someone will do some shoulder rolls or back arches or some other so-not-a-stretch-that-it-might-actually-cause-more-harm-than-good movement.  Except me.

I’m there doing bodyweight good mornings, squats, calf stretches, Atlas lunges, scaptions, etc.

No wonder my kids are mortified to travel with me.  Or be seen with me in public malls.

I try to be a little discreet – I’ll go off in a corner somewhere.  And I usually don’t get funny looks but I don’t care anyway.

Whether at the airport or the mall, there is often some significant time to kill.  Maybe it’s 10 minutes or maybe its 2 hrs.  Either way, why not get in the habit of stretching multiple times a day?

Note well:  Like any endeavor, you can take it too far.  Because stretching does cause micro-damage to soft tissue, you don’t want to really tax the fascia.  So I’m talking ab out light stretching here, to maximize blood flow to the area and promote recovery.  Stretching to increase range of motion is a different issue.  (And no, stretching isn’t really stretching the muscle itself.  Though I’ve never done a human dissection, I understand muscle is pretty much like play-dough.  Not really stretchy – it’s the fascia that you are stretching.)

Is there some stigma to stretching in public?

Do you stretch in public?  Why/why not?

Are there some stretches that are just not appropriate for public viewing?

Continue reading about Stretching in Public

Water Muscles

[repost]

Most people do not realize how powerful water is in the healing process.

No, this is not an article about spa therapy, holistic medicine, or anything like that. This is about using simple methods to build muscle and strength as well as maintaining your overall health.

Your body might be 60% water overall, but your muscles are actually 70-75% water. Each time you work these muscles as you lift weights, small tears and rips form in the fibrous muscle tissues. Your muscles grow when these small tears are repaired. Guess what happens if your muscles aren’t able to heal:

Nothing.

Nothing happens at all. That means no growth, no toning, no strength increases… nothing.

Here’s a quick breakdown of why you need water to heal and how to harness its power to help your muscles after a workout.

Got Water?

Not getting enough water has serious side effects. Even a 1 percent change in your body’s water levels can seriously impair your exercise performance. Even worse, your ability to recover goes down the toilet… and the toilet it goes down is one of those water-saving dry flush things that doesn’t quite get the job done.

Some other reasons you need extra water when you lift weights: (more…)

Continue reading about How to Harness the Healing Power of Water for Muscle Health

Warm UpGetting a good warm up before you attempt any heavy lifting is an absolute necessity. The purpose of a warm up should be pretty obvious from its name. You need to get your body warm and the blood pumping before you start lifting heavy.

Another fact that should be pretty obvious is that your ability to get your body warm will depend on the temperature the place you’re exercising in. If it’s winter time, a cool evening, or if you life in a cold place, then your body will probably require more warm up than it would on a hot summer afternoon.

Why warm up:

Why you need to warm up is a matter of safety. Just to help you visualize what’s going on, I’d like you to think about a rubber band. This will represent your muscles and other tissues. What happens if you stretch a rubber band that has been sitting in the freezer?

The rubber band probably snaps before you are able to stretch it very far. A warm rubber band, on the other hand, can probably be stretched a long ways before it breaks. This is what rubber bands were designed to do, after all. They are designed to stretch, but they can’t do that job very well cold.

The same is true for your muscles. They can’t do their job nearly as well when they are cold, and starting out with a heavy weight before your muscles are nice and warm can lead to injury and muscle tears. Trust me, you don’t want to be like that rubber band that snaps when it’s cold.

Warm ups are even more important for the bigger exercises such as the squat, deadlift, and the bench press. These will require a more extensive warm up, while other exercises will likely only need a a set or two with a light weight to get warmed up.

How to warm up

1. Clothing: Let’s start off with the right clothing. Wearing a sweater or workout pants is a good idea in cold weather until you’re able to raise you body temperature. Consider wearing several small layers instead of one heavy layer. Smaller layers can be peeled off one at a time until your body temperature is high enough.

2. Do static stretches at the end: In case you don’t know what this means, static stretches are those done without movement. The traditional stretches that you are familiar with are probably mostly all static stretches, such as touching your toes.

Static stretches have not been shown to do anything to help prevent injuries when you lift. In fact, many believe that static stretches increase the number of injuries you have when you lift weights. This may be because weight lifting requires you to keep your muscles tight, and loose muscles holding heavy weights can sometimes move beyond their normal range of motion.

Again, think of the rubber band analogy. The best time to stretch your muscles is when they are already nice and warm after you are finished lifting weights. Take a few minutes at the end of your workout to do your static stretches and lengthen your tightened muscles back out.

3. General warm up: Do some running for five minutes just to warm up your body temperature. You can really pick which type of activity you’d like to do to get your temperature up. Five minutes on the treadmill works fine, so does 5 minutes on an exercise bike. Doing a set or two of fairly light weight squats will also warm up your body very quickly.

4. Dynamic warm ups: The word static means staying still, and dynamic basically means with movement, or motion. Do dynamic warmups and stretches before your workout instead of static stretches. You can check out a decent list of dynamic warm ups here. You don’t have to do all of these, but a few leg kicks, butt kicks, and maybe some high knees should be done before squats/deadlifts at the very least.

If you don’t want to look silly by marching around the gym doing your leg kicks, go ahead and hold onto something and just do one leg at a time as you swing your leg in front of you for 10-15 reps or more. If you’re ever in doubt about your warm ups, make the mistake of doing too much warm up instead of too little.

5. Exercise-specific warm ups: You will need to do 1-2 sets or more of warm ups specific to the muscle group you are about to start working. For example, if you’re going to do the bench press, you might start off with a light warm up set (or more) of 12 reps. Choose a weight that is light enough that you can easily get 12 reps.

Pyramid sets: The idea behind pyramid sets is that you start with a lighter weight doing more reps. Maybe you start with 12 reps on the first set. The second set uses a heavier weight for 10 reps, the next 8 reps, and then 6.

Pyramid rep schemes work best for compound movements like the bench press. They don’t work quite as well for single-joint movements like bicep curls. The point here is that pyramid sets help you to ease into a heavy weight more safely.

That doesn’t mean you have to use them all the time for every single workout you ever do, as sets across (the same number of reps on each set) are useful as well, but pyramid reps are good to keep in mind.

Stretching between sets: There is some disagreement out there as to whether this is helpful or not. If you feel like your muscle is getting a little bit too tight after a heavy set and you’d like to loosen it out a little bit, I see nothing wrong with doing a light stretch for a moment between sets. Others may disagree with me on that, but just don’t go crazy with a deep stretch between sets, and you should be just fine.

Continue reading about Proper Warm Ups & Stretches

Bill Starr Arnold SchwarzeneggerIf you’ve been going to a commercial gym regularly, you might have noticed that some guys will crank out a set of 15 reps for an exercise while another guy just does 3 reps on a different exercise. What’s up with that?

The reason you’ll see people using totally different rep ranges is that some people have different goals. Doing more reps in your weight lifting routine can serve a great purpose, and doing less reps can also be useful.

Which rep range you ultimately decide to use should be based on your goals and what you want to accomplish. Here, we’ll talk about a few points that will help you make the best decision.

Let’s take a look at what each rep range can be useful for:

  • 1-3 Reps: Best suited to boosting your overall strength. The focus here is improving the maximum amount of weight possible for a single repetition. You’ll see powerlifters use these ranges frequently.
  • 3-5 reps: Best for developing power, meaning that this rep range is good for the combination of both strength and speed. This is particularly useful for athletes training for sports performance. See stronglifts for more on strength training.
  • 8-12 reps: This is the magic range touted by bodybuilders as being the most useful for adding lean muscle mass. Your muscles will enlarge the most in this range and feel a “pump” as you workout. Building muscle mass and looking/ feeling better is the focus of this site.
  • 10-20 reps: Very useful for building mass in your legs. Your legs generally are able to handle more stress than your arms can handle.
  • 20+ reps: Best for endurance. Not great for what you’re trying to accomplish if you’re like most readers of this site.

Big and Strong?

It’s not uncommon for a person to want to build both muscle mass and strength. These two qualities usually go together, but bodybuilders with massive muscles often can’t lift as much weight as a strength trainer with somewhat smaller muscles.

Using the lower rep ranges will make you stronger first, and your muscles will also grow as a side benefit. Staying in the 8-12 rep range will build larger, more massive muscles first, and you’ll get stronger as a side benefit.

You can see where I’m going with this. Bigger muscles aren’t always equal to stronger muscles. In general, your muscles will become bigger as they become stronger, but each rep range has a particular focus. Pick your rep ranges based on your goals.

Small Range Exercises: Your muscles get the most benefit from your workout when you use them through the full range of motion, but not every exercise you do will have the same range of motion.

Simple physics teaches us that moving an object through a greater distance requires more force. For example, when you squat, you move the weight a good distance throughout the movement. But what about when you do a set of wrist curls? How much does the weight move on a set of wrist curls? Probably not as much.

Since some exercises have such a small range of motion, they can benefit from higher repetitions. Exercises such as calf raises, wrist curls, shoulder shrugs, and ab crunches can all work well with a set of 15.

More for legs? Your legs will definitely tire out less quickly than your arms. Try a heavy set of bicep curls. You might feel fine after 7 reps and then totally die out by the tenth. Notice how your performance can fail very quickly with your arms. When you’re doing leg exercises, on the other hand, you might be surprised how many times you can crank out another rep after taking a few breaths.

Arnold recommends 6-9 reps for the upper body, and 12-16 reps for the legs. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Nothing is set in stone

Let me just say that none of this is set in stone. If you want to train 5 reps for your legs and it’s giving you good returns, then go ahead. If you want to try 15 reps on your arms, go ahead. The above rep schemes are just guides that most people agree work for certain goals.

But you definitely should experiment with different rep ranges. The goal of this site is to help you build muscle mass and lose fat first… strength is secondary here.

Still, even if you don’t care how much weight you’re lifting, try a good month with sets of 5 when your progress starts slowing down. Always training with the same number of repetitions can lead to staleness.

Continue reading about The Best Rep Ranges for Muscle, Strength

Situps

Image Credit: itsnickssister

WFN reader Richard asked the following question in the comments to a previous article:

Usually when I do situps/crunches, I would do like 3 sets and with each set I would do a different variation, like either crunches or legs in the air crunches etc etc. But which ab exercises do help burn that unwanted stomach fat?

This is a great question, because men tend to accumulate fat in the stomach area, whereas women get it more in the hips and thighs. Doing situps and crunches to work your abs seems like the logical choice to get rid of that gut.

Trying to take fat off of one part of your body only is called spot reduction of fat, and unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. You can decrease your overall body fat percentage, but there is no exercise that can help you take the fat just off your stomach.

But you know you want it

I understand the desire. The abdomen is the visual center of the body. Since the eye naturally draws first to the middle of the body, a big gut is like a bull’s-eye right on the center of you, while a tight stomach or six pack immediately shows an outstanding physique.

I get the feeling that if all of our fat cells were hanging out around our toes, we wouldn’t be too concerned… or maybe I’m just not realizing how nasty it would look…

But I know what the real question is: how do I really get that six pack?

Here’s the deal:

The rectus abdominus is a layer of muscle that is draped over your mid-section between the pelvis and the rib cage. Getting a six pack requires you to build up those muscles and strengthen them (I know you already know this part, but just in case). Your abs are worked especially in the stomach crunching movements and when they act as stabilizers for exercises like deadlifts.

The next step is to remove the fat that’s covering your six pack. Can you do this with ab-exercises? Well, kinda.

I won’t say that abdominal exercises don’t do anything to lower your body fat percentages. Each crunch you do does expend some energy and burn some fat, but not enough to really make a difference.

Also, each pound of muscle on your body requires more energy for you body to maintain it each day. Each pound is estimated to burn between 20-35 calories per day, depending on your activity levels and which studies you are basing the numbers on.

So, the fact that you are increasing the muscle mass in your abs will also amount to more calories expended. But the abs are a smaller muscle group, so again the results are negligible for fat loss.

A better way:

Here’s something that will do more: use those exercises that do work many of your large muscles together, burn many more calories, and create greater muscle mass to burn more fat. This will help to make the six pack more visible.

Yes, we are talking again about those nice, multi-joint, compound, Big 7 exercises that I’m always ranting about. This means that one of the best weight lifting exercises for removing the belly fat is one of the exercises that you would expect the least: the squat. Use other big lifts in a similar manner.

From there, it’s a matter of taking the other steps to keep your fat levels in check:

  • Six smaller meals a day
  • The right foods in the right amounts
  • Plenty of water
  • Rest and recovery
  • Thermic foods
  • Cardio

Remember though, you are not a professional bodybuilder preparing for a competition. Your goal is to look good year-round, not just for a weekend or an event. There’s no need for complicated programs of severe carb restriction or extreme cutting programs. Do the simple things first, and worry about the complicated stuff if you ever really come to that point.

Summary:

Your six pack will require two things:

1. Strengthening of your abdominal muscles.

2. Lowering your body fat percentages so that your six pack is uncovered

How about you? What kinds of things were you doing when you were at your leanest?

Continue reading about How Do I Work The Fat Off My Gut?

training partner spotter

By Jason

If you’ve ever had to work out alone, you’ve been there.

“Can I handle one more set on the bench press? Can I do one more rep, or will I get caught under the bar?”

You might know what your limits are pretty well, but it’s better safe than sorry. Sometimes you muscles just give out a little sooner than you thought they would.

Getting stuck on a heavy set without a spotter can be a disaster. It’s never happened to me because I have a phobia of it, and I will never do a heavy set of bench presses without a spotter. [Editor Darrin here - Jason may have never had this happen, but I have.  It's scary and embarrassing and dangerous.]

But I’ve seen it before. I’ve had to run across the gym to save some poor kid who was lifting a weight he wasn’t ready for alone. Having a trainer partner at your side is best, but it isn’t for everybody.

Why you should have a workout partner:

  • Spotter: You have a built in spotter every time you come to the gym. No need to worry about getting stuck below a heavy bar that is smashing your chest in.   See http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/tips-for-training-without-a-spotter-the-big-7/ for tips here if you don’t have a spotter.
  • Motivation: When your workout gets tough, it’s great to have someone that can help to push you through the end of that heavy set when you feel like calling it quits.
  • Routine: The fact that you’re going with somebody else usually helps you to plan out your workouts ahead of time. That way, you’re less likely to just go into the gym and “wing it” without a plan.
  • Consistency: Sometimes the fact that you have a partner is what gets you into the gym in the first place. If your partner is dragging you into the gym each day, work on your motivation and ask yourself what you really want to get out of your workouts.

Of course, having a workout partner is the best method for keeping your workouts safe, motivating, and consistent. But again, having a training partner isn’t for everybody.

The drawbacks of a workout partner:

  • You’re anti-social: Maybe you just don’t like people, I don’t know… but the reason most of us workout alone is that we just don’t have a friend that goes to the same gym.
  • Time conflicts: Fitting workout times into your own schedule is tough enough. Working it out with another person can be even worse, and it sometimes becomes an excuse to skip a day.
  • Needs conflicts: You squat with 10 pounds, your partner squats with 300 pounds. Changing the weights on each set can be a real pain. Also, beginners and advanced trainees have different needs and should be on different routines.
  • Your partner is a wuss: Maybe your partner is one of those sissies who’s going to try to convince you to ditch the free weights for the machines and quit squatting so that you can spend all your time on your arms (it doesn’t work that way).

Whatever you decide, try to never workout alone. Home gyms are where most of the injuries occur, so be sure that someone is close by to save you in case of an emergency. Hearing a popping noise when you’re all alone under a bar can really suck. If nobody is around, take precautions and have the equipment you need (power rack, collars, etc.)

Meeting people: Don’t be afraid to ask people for a quick spot when you need it. When you do, take a moment to get to know them. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and you don’t have to become “best friends forever”, but taking just a moment to get to know someone can go a long way.

The people that come to the same gym at the same time as you usually make great spotters for the next time you’re in the gym. If you have the same goals, work ethic, and motivation to succeed, and if your schedules work well, you may have found yourself a great training partner.

Continue reading about Do I Really Need a Training Partner?

Darrin

This is the second part of a 2-part article by guest author Cameron Stache.  See this for Part 1.  Cameron currently works as a Fitness Coach/ Assistant Fitness Manager at the Rush Fitness Complex in Greensboro, NC.  He’s pursuing his Exercise Science degree and plans to use this degree to either work at a large college and be a strength and conditioning coach, or go into ergonomics. If you are interested in brands Cameron supports, check out  http://cstache.qhealthzone.com .

How to properly roll your major muscle groups

While last time I discussed the importance and benefit of self-myofacial release (SMR, or “foam rolling”) this time I am going to cover how to properly foam roll each of your basic muscle groups.  Before I can do this, however, I need to cover a few basic rules of foam-rolling:

  • Always roll toward the midline (spine) of your body.  For example, one rolling their leg would start at the bottom and work up to the hip.  A person who rolls their arm extended to the right of their body rolls from the right, to the left (wrist up to shoulder).
  • Roll one side of your body then the other.  In other words, don’t roll both calves at once; you should roll your left then your right, or vise-versa.
  • Roll across a muscle at a speed of approx. one inch per second.  This allows you to find a knot in your muscle without passing over it too quickly and missing it.
  • When you DO find a knot (feels like someone digging a knuckle into your muscle at the location of the foam roll) you must hold the roll on that spot for 25-30 seconds.  After you are done counting continue rolling across the muscle.  You might stop every 1/4 inch, inch, 3 inches, or one random time; no one really knows.  It depends on your muscle on where you stop.  I will tell you from my experience though that most people have a side that is usually tighter (and more painful) than the other.
  • The foam roll will always be situated between yourself and the floor.  By using body weight to apply pressure to the muscle you cause the muscle spindle to contract and apply the force for you.  This is the main difference between a deep tissue massage and foam-rolling.

Here are the basic muscles to foam roll and the proper technique of rolling them.  I will try to be as detailed as I can, but a few of them can be quite complex.  For you visual people I went into MS paint and made you some visuals:  (It was quite tough though for someone artistically impaired like myself so please don’t make fun of the TOO much because I find them quite good.)

  • Calves - Probably one of the more common muscles.  95% of lower back pain is caused by tightness in the calves.  Start by sitting on your butt with your legs straight out in front of you.  Lift a leg and set the foam roll near the bottom of your ankle (near your Achilles’ tendon). Roll up until you get to just below your knee.  Normally the closer you get to your knee the tighter your muscle feels, don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel it right away.  Your toe should be flexed back to the ceiling the entire time.

  • Quads - Lay on your stomach.  The foam-roll should be situated just above your kneecap.  You should look similar to being in a plank (prone iso-ab) position.  Roll up to your hip.  When your feel a knot on this one go ahead and bent your knee to about 45 degrees and leave it there until you get to the end of the leg.

  • Hamstrings -  This is basically the exact same as the calf except you start above the knee and roll to your gluteals.  Really the only time you would roll your hamstrings however is for soreness.

  • Inner thigh/hip flexors -  Lay prone on the floor.  Set one knee to the side of your body with the inner thigh and inside of the knee on the ground.  Put the foam roll on the inside of the tight of the sideways leg, just above the knee.  Roll your body towards the roll to move it up your leg.  Go to the end of your leg.  For those looking to foam roll their hip flexors (basically anyone who goes parallel in a barbell squat) should continue past the end of the leg.  This means when it hits the groin area, you would roll on top of the roll.  The roll should then be on the front of your hip, basically holding your whole side off of the ground.

  • IT band (outer thigh) -  Sorry people who have tight outer thighs, but this is probably the most painful of all of the areas.  Start in a side plank position and set the roll under the bottom thigh just above the knee.  The top leg then bends down to the floor in order to put the top foot there for balance.  Using your shoulder/forearm (the one on the floor) as support roll to the hip bone.  It is important to keep your foot off the ground.  You should always have a straight line from your shoulder to foot.  Your toe should be flexed up and pointing the direction of your chest.

  • Piriformus - This is probably the hardest to explain, so please bear with me.  Start sitting on the foam roll with only one side of your body on the roll.  The other side should be hanging off the end; both legs straight ahead.  Cross the foot on the side you are sitting on onto the opposite leg just above the knee.  Then raise the opposite leg.  Roll until you fall off of the cylindrical devil.

  • Upper Back -  Start with your roll on the middle of your back.  You should be looking up toward the ceiling.  Cross your arms in front and try to grab your shoulder blades.  Roll up until you get just below your neck.

  • Latisimus Dorsi -  Lay on your side on the floor.  Extend the arm you are laying on over your head to make a straight line from your hand to your foot.  Place the foam roll just above your armpit.  Lean back ever so slightly.  Roll down to the top of your ribs.

As I said last article, I will reiterate what NOT to Roll:

  • Joints, lower back, and neck- DO NOT ever roll these muscles with a foam-roll.  These specific areas of your body don’t really have very many protective muscles, and the ones that are there aren’t very strong.  I would like to point out one exception.  You may roll your erectors in your lower back with a tennis ball, golf ball, of some similar object.  The same can be said about your feet.  The smaller size of the objects allows you to get to your muscles without putting any strain on your spine.  The only exception to this is that you ARE able to roll your lower back, or feet, with a tennis ball, baseball, golf ball, etc.
  • Ribs- due to the small amount of muscle in the rib cage area and the large amount of bodyweight isolated in a small area in the ribs you shouldn’t roll here due to a risk of cracking or breaking a rib.  While the chances are slim, it’s not really even close to the risk of it happening.
  • Calves during pregnancy- Foam-rolling your calves during the third trimester of pregnancy can cause you to go into premature labor.  (I’m mainly talking to you ladies here.)  Your lower body nerves are all connected and it could send you into labor earlier than intended.  Personally I never tell anyone pregnant to foam-roll calves.  Even if they aren’t near that term.  I’d just rather not deal with it.

Progressions/ and regressions of foam-rolling

The last thing I want to cover is how to progress and regress the exercises.  When foam-rolling you should be a little uncomfortable but not in excruciating pain. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest amount of discomfort and 10 being excruciating pain you should be between an 6-8.  So it should be uncomfortable with maybe a little pain on the tighter parts.  This being said, anytime you wish to reduce the pressure on your muscle it is considered a regression, and anytime you add more pressure it is called a progression.

Simple ways to regress the exercise:

-   Lay on a softer floor.

-   Add more surface area that the pressure is being applied to.  An easy way to do this is to add an extra foam roll.  That spreads the pressure of your weight onto a wider area, reducing the pressure on a specific spot.

-   Buy a newer foam roll.  After a while the rolls get compacted after some use and have less cushion.

Simple ways to progress the exercise.

-   Lay on a harder floor.

-   Reduce the surface area.  (see next point)

-   Decrease the diameter of the roller.  A smaller diameter reduces the contact surface area, allowing you to work a tight area in a more focused way.  (see next point)

-   Increase the hardness of the roller.  Although it is intended to apply to this bullet point, it very easily applies to the previous one that you can use things such as a barbell to roll on.  Be warned, however, that it is QUITE uncomfortable.  You can also use a tennis ball, golf ball, baseball, softball, small medicine ball, etc.

-   Add more bodyweight.  An example of this would be crossing your leg on top of the rolling one while rolling calves.  Or even lifting your butt off the ground.

This is Darrin now – I found a great video from Eric Cressey, featuring Tony Gentlecore (one of the funniest fitness writers out there).  Here it is:

Let’s hear some comments and questions for Cameron!

Continue reading about How To Foam Roll

Darrin

This is the first part of a 2-part article by guest author Cameron Stache.  Cameron currently works as a Fitness Coach/ Assistant Fitness Manager at the Rush Fitness Complex in Greensboro, NC.  He’s pursuing his Exercise Science degree and plans to use this degree to either work at a large college and be a strength and conditioning coach, or go into ergonomics. If you are interested in brands Cameron supports, check out  http://cstache.qhealthzone.com .

pic: what is foam rolling
What Is Foam Rolling?

The technical name for foam-rolling is Self-Myofacial Release (SMR).    Most people just call it by foam-rolling because it’s easier to say and it’s more well-known as that.  I am going to refer to it as SMR for short.  SMR has been used in physical therapy for years.  It has only recently become main stream in the fitness realm though.

SMR is primarily used to correct muscle imbalances in the body.  As we go through our normal (outside the gym) lives we develop some imbalances.  An imbalance reduces muscle strength and posture, thus increasing your risk of injury, especially when those imbalances are accentuated by heavy loads as in lifting weights.

It works basically like a deep tissue massage.  When rolling across a muscle you apply pressure to the muscle spindle.  The muscle spindle is what reflexively contracts your muscle when it stretches too far or too fast.  (Technically, that’s how your muscle contracts.  It doesn’t really shorten.  The muscle itself actually lengthens the muscle spindle then contracts it.  Some food for thought: While your muscle may appear shorter when it contracts, in one or more of the three planes of motion it may actually be lengthening.  That is how your muscle remains tense.)  By using the muscle spindle as self-applied force on the muscle, it will cause it to stretch because you are holding a segment in place while it is pulling from the other end of the muscle.

What are the benefits?

There are multiple uses for foam-rolling your muscles.  First, there is relief from soreness.  A person who foam-rolls targeted muscles after a workout is less sore than someone who didn’t.  Second, is for proper posture.  Most people really don’t think that this is a big deal.  However, as Darrin has stated before, strength is more neurological than it is muscle size.  People with less muscle imbalances have better posture.  This means that opposing muscles are neither too long, nor too short; thus able to fire with proper effort and timing.  That allows for greater neurological communication and further increasing strength, without any lifting at all.  The increase in core strength gained by the correct posture also gives the third benefit; injury prevention.

What muscles can be foam-rolled?

There are multiple muscles that can be foam-rolled.  When rolling (more…)

Continue reading about What Is Foam-Rolling?