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How Can You Benefit From Myofascial Release Exercises?

By Lisi Bratcher | Sept. 17, 2019, 2:30 p.m. (ET)

“Myo” is Greek for muscle. “Fascia” is the tough outer lining of a muscle that holds it in place. This structure of your body keeps everything in place, supports communication between tissues and provides protection.

Its efficiency is based on a balanced fluid exchange, and if it gets off balance, muscle fibers can start to clog up and move less effectively. This can cause friction, leading to pain or overuse injuries. 

Myofascial exercises target your connective tissue including muscle fascia, tendons and ligaments. They help to keep your structural elements properly aligned and working smoothly while swimming, biking or running. 

What Are Myofascial Release Trigger Points? 

Myofascial release techniques are gaining in popularity, including applying trigger point release by foam rolling. This therapy form is based on the fact that poor posture, overuse of tissue and overload on muscles and nearby joints during training can cause tissue friction and lead to pain. If you start massaging the painful area, you might feel a knob, a sensitive area that is called a “trigger point,” since it can trigger more pain from overstimulation. A foam roller can squeeze out the fluids around the sensitive area, increasing fluid exchange and lessening tissue friction. 

How Do You Get Started?

One way to reduce the tightness around a trigger point is exercise. Squeezing the affected area by alternating pressure and release can be an effective way to increase the ‘inner flow’ of the tissue.
Combining foam roller massages and dynamic stretching is a promising approach.

  1. Start with a full body warm-up to increase the blood flow. Try to keep it flowing while exercising.
  2. Mix in a variety of exercises in different planes.
  3. While challenging one area, make sure you take pressure off other areas.
  4. Apply larger movements instead of holding smaller, more local positions.
  5. Use the full range of motion of your joints – challenge your flexibility.
  6. Add foam rolling, massages and other forms of therapy as needed.

Your goal is to stretch the painful muscle, improve posture, and restore healthy muscle use. Ideally, you should combine foam rolling with dynamic stretching exercises as shown below.

What Are Examples Of Stretching Exercises In Different Planes?

Fascia exercises are slightly different compared to more traditional stretching exercises. Instead of staying in one plane of a movement, you can address your muscles and joints in a 3D approach. While getting into a certain position, add a gentle twist.

Exercise 1: Chest Figure 8

Standing upright, place both of your hands on the outside of your rib cage. Now begin moving your body above your hands in small circles, one to your right, followed by one to your left. Lean to your back, to your side, to your front, cross-over and continue on your other side. Switch directions after 3-4 rounds.

chest exercise

Exercise 2: Ball & Band Spiral

Sit on a stability ball with a resistance band wrapped around your thighs, ending on the outside of your right thigh. Grab the end of the band and wrap it around your left hand. Start by leaning forward (bend your hips), and extend your left arm overhead.

Position 1: Reach diagonally with your left hand to your right side, towards the ceiling. Your face is looking towards your left hand.

Position 2: Bring your extended arm above your left thigh while you are still looking up to your hand.

Position 3: Bring your arm behind your back, then twist and look back toward your extended arm. Hold each position for 2-3 seconds before flowing to the next one. Practice this three to five times, then switch sides.

ball exercise

Exercise 3: Cross-over Bird Dog

Start on an exercise mat on the floor in a bench position. Lift your left leg off the floor, extend it, and reach with your left foot over your right calf. Now lift your left hand off the floor, extend your arm, and reach with your left hand over your right hand. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then try to reach further and hold it for another 5-10 seconds. Repeat three to five times each side.

exercise three

Exercise 4: Reverse Chair

Start with your feet on a chair or stability ball, 90 degree bend in your knees and hips. Lift your hips off the floor and start with slow hip circles. Repeat three to five times, then switch direction. Variation: Lift hips off the floor and alternately drop your knees to the right and left side.

exercise ball

Exercise 5: Torso Flexion with Foot Wave

Stand upright with a soft bend in your knees. Bend your hips and lean forward, letting your upper body hang down. While in this position, alternately lift your heels and toes (‘foot wave’). Variation: Turn your torso to the side and repeat the foot wave. Alternate sides. Repeat five waves for each foot in each position.

exercise 5

Exercise 6: Triple Spine Twirl

Stand upright, in a staggered stance with your arms at your side. First position: Curl your upper back in, bring your chin toward your chest, internally rotate your arms and face your palms out. Second position: From the curled position, gently unroll into a more upright stance. Externally rotate your arms until the palms face out and up front. Third position: Continue to open up your chest by lifting your extended arms up towards the ceiling. Let your head follow the move and end up facing the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades together and take deep breaths.

exercise 6

Stay Relaxed – Focus on Your Breathing

All movements should be done in a gentle way. The key is to keep your movements flowing without any jerking or harsh pulling. Each time you get into a position, relax, and pay attention to your chest raising and lowering while you take a few breaths. Exhale deeply once or twice and try to get into the position a little bit deeper.

Should I Avoid Pain During Stretching?

Yes! Discomfort is ok, pain is not. On a pain scale from one to 10, judge your level of pain up to three on the scale. This equals a gentle pull, not a strong one. Avoid strong pain!

Build a few exercises into your post-workout routine to keep your joints and muscles working properly!