One of the most common excuses for not exercising is ‘I’m too sore and stiff’ to train, and to be fair this is quite often a legitimate one. The problem with this excuse is if you didn’t train every time you’re feeling a bit stiff, then chances are you won’t train at all! Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is literally a pain in the backside (particularly after an intense back squat session), but is a good indicator that you’ve pushed yourself adequately to encourage supercompensation and growth. When and when not to train with stiffness This is not a straight forward question to answer, stiffness is a consequence of muscle microtears caused by resistance training of some sort, but it’s not always clear when you can (or should) train through the stiffness. The answer to this is wholly subjective and relies heavily on your own understanding of your body. There is a major difference between DOMS, regular stiffness and muscle injury, so you need to be able to identify what it is you’re suffering with each time. Remember, DOMS can be trained through, but the stiffness might also indicate that the body part is fatigued predisposing it to injury. If you feel a little sore be sure to warm up adequately before training, the muscle has been weakened so it needs to have a good blood flow and perfusion of oxygen to increase the elasticity of the tissue. Using Foam Rollers Why are foam rollers so popular, well it saves you £30-40 that you’d pay for a regular sports massage for a start! OK, rollers have their limitations, but on the whole they can help to release knots in muscle facia, straightening muscle tissue, as well as improving circulation and muscle flexibility. Foam rollers mimic the work of a sports massage therapist when it suits you, plus you can control the amount of tension placed on the area. Rollers will never replace a physio for obvious reasons, but their use in a gym environment is invaluable making them an integral piece of gym equipment.
Using Foam Rollers Properly One of the main ways to get the most out of the roller is to firstly roll away any tension, then stand up (or stay seated depending on the muscle being rolled) and stretch the muscle out. Once the muscle has been loosened try to isolate it into a gradual contraction, this gradually builds the muscle back into physical activity allowing you to integrate it into your full body workout. The purpose of this is to re-align your muscles to their optimal point and to eliminate any trigger points (tight muscle knots) there might be in the muscle. Use a medicine ball instead There may be times when a roller either doesn’t get deep enough or doesn’t hit the spot, in this occasion you may wish to consider a medicine ball for it’s relative smaller surface area increasing the pressure that can be applied. The chest is a great example, if you feel knotting or stiffness in the chest area then try this as an alternative to rolling. You might also want to try using a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or something similar, alternatively you can buy peanut rollers which are ideal for stiff erector spinae muscles in the back (the muscles either side of the spine).