Have you ever noticed that after you finish training, the muscles you worked feel ‘tight’ for a few minutes?
This tightness happens because there is residual blood volume that’s pumped into your working muscles. The additional blood flow helps to transport oxygen and energy substrates (nutrients) in, while moving waste out.
And it results in the stretching of local tissue in your muscle which creates the feeling of ‘tightness’. But that should dissipate within a few minutes to get back to a normal and healthy, loose and free feeling in your body.
However the tightness can persist, and if it does, there will be an unwanted price to pay. The cost is a loss of full function of those muscles and the related joints.
This loss of function leads to patterns of compensation and a decrease in performance. As well as an eventual breakdown and possible injury.
The problem for most athletes is that they grow accustomed to lingering ‘tightness’. Then this abnormal state becomes a perceived “normal state” that doesn’t get addressed soon enough.
As an athlete, there’s a good chance that you’re unaware of all the persisting tightness in your body. That is until it’s nagging you in a way that starts eating away at the confidence you need to push your outer limits.
And that’s no way to become an Athlete For Life.
The time is now to be proactive and correct this issue.
That’s why I want to help you understand how that tightness develops. And share some simple tactics that you can put to use now.
When tension doesn’t subside as it should, then there are a few contributing factors at play.
There’s an over-excitation of the muscle(s) that’s likely due to a compensation pattern. This means that there is a weakness somewhere in the pattern of movement. And thus a faulty recruitment of the muscles that would normally be involved.
It’s also likely that there’s a repetitive position or movement in your sport. And that creates an over-dominance of a muscle group(s).
Whether it’s over-excitation or over-dominance, or a combination of both, a problem exists.
The good news is that a natural tendency that contributes to the problem is also the part of the solution.
That tendency is reciprocal muscular inhibition (RMI). As I had mentioned this in my last article, it’s involved in function, as well as dysfunction, in your body.
RMI means that when one muscle contracts, its opposing muscle becomes inhibited.
And it takes place within all three types of muscular contractions (concentric, isometric, and eccentric). And residual tension can exist in all three forms of contraction.
So this leaves a wide range of potentially unwanted inhibition along the chain of muscles. Again, this is what perpetuates dysfunction and puts your performance in jeopardy.
With that said, you can get out in front of it and stop this tension in its tracks.
4 Tactics To Relieve Lingering Tension:
1. Fast & Loose
The sooner you get get rid of tension after an exercise, the better. So get “fast and loose” after every set, as my teacher Pavel Tsatsouline emphasizes. This can be a loose walk or a literal shake and shimmy of your extremities to relieve tension. Do this between sets and after your workout.
2. Self-Myofascial Release (i.e. rolling out)
Use a roller to search for areas of residual tension before, during, and after training sessions. Once you find an area with the most tension, rescue it by staying on it until it starts to subside. Then, you’ll be in a better state to succeed in your performance.
3. Mobility Stretching
These are specific exercises to help you gain an optimal range of motion that you can control. And for many of you, you should use mobility stretching should to correct asymmetries.
The types of mobility stretching I recommend all involve using RMI to improve function. These are active-isolated stretching, isokinetic stretching, and isometric stretching.
You can apply them before, during, and after your training, according to your needs and goals.
4. Core Stability Strength
These exercises should aim to help re-engage weak (inhibited and under-performing) muscles. This helps you use the correct patterns of recruitment for stability. Then reinforce them with ongoing progressions.
Again, you can apply them before, during, and after your training, according to your needs and goals.
The above four tactics are what I emphasize with all my clients as a means to stay healthy and perform better.
To learn more of the specifics, sign up for Search And Rescue Mobility (SARM) to get an individualized daily self-care routine. And build your foundation to becoming an Athlete For Life.
Get yours here.