3 Things You Can Do Tonight, To Improve Your Performance Tomorrow!

22 Jun

Today’s post focuses on something you need to be paying more attention to: Recovery and Regeneration. Below are 3 things you can do right after reading this article, and every night here after to help boost your productivity in the gym.

1. Soft Tissue Work – I am not going to get scientific on you. You have surely heard, or used the term “knot” to describe a tenderness / tightness in your muscle. The term knot is in reference to an area in the fibers of your muscle that has become over active. Basically due to the stress from training, sitting in certain prolonged positions or other stresses the tissue has become over active and locked in a contraction of sorts. Additionally, the body may have begun producing more connective tissue along the fibers to account for the continual stress (think constantly slumped at a desk = body adds reinforcement in upper back to hold your head up!). Generally these areas are noticeably painful. However, many times you can find “knots” in places that have to this point gone unnoticed. In the case of areas that have become permanently lengthened / reinforced they generally don’t hurt, but become very dense due to the added connective tissue. Either way the tissue quality is suffering and needs to be improved.

So what does this mean in terms of your performance?

Well, for starters pain can keep you from effectively training. Many times pain presents itself in one location but is caused by tightness elsewhere in the body. It is important to take a global approach to healing pain. Too often we attempt to cure pain by treating symptoms directly. Example: you have recurring pain in the front of your knee. Every day you take Advil, ice the pain site and carry on trying to work through the discomfort. Instead, you may need to address the cause of anterior knee pain by actively massaging the rectus femoris, glute medius, and adductors – for starters.

Of note: work on corrective exercises to address hip stability, glute function / activation. Additionally many people benefit from mobility work in the ankles (dorsiflexion).

Anterior knee pain is only one example, this relationship between pain site and a distal cause of pain occur all throughout the body. With that in mind take a preventive approach and dedicate some time each night to foam rolling, or self massage with a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or massage stick.

I realize we’re all busy so focus on areas that are: 1) Tender and 2) Areas opposite of shortened muscle groups. For example if your shoulders are rolled forward, focus your lacrosse ball on the upper back. If your hip flexors are tight, focus the lacrosse ball on the rear end.

2. Static stretching – To stretch or not to stretch? Recently you may have heard that static stretching is old school, a thing of the past. The truth is that static stretching does serve a purpose in injury prevention. It’s something you want to include. In his book “Advances in Functional Training” Coach Mike Boyle notes: “If all your athletes are not rolling and stretching, you’re five steps behind.”

Again with the interest of time pick a couple static stretches a night that focus on areas that require attention. Common problem sites include: Hip Flexors, Pecs, and Adductors.

Of note: Static stretching should be performed after you have done your soft tissue work. Additionally, scrap the idea of heating up muscles via exercise or hot showers before hand. You want to stretch the muscle cold.

3. Breathe – Some would advocate this in the morning, but I see just as much if not more benefit to doing it at night. Take a good 5 – 10m and work on breathing. Specifically, diaphragmatic breathing. Like any other muscle we can train and strengthen the diaphragm. The diaphragm is more efficient than the lungs believe it or not. Furthermore, diaphragmatic breathing utilizes the abdominals. Thus providing a more powerful and effective exhalation. Improving your diaphragmatic breathing will help you become more efficient, and in turn your body has less of a demand for oxygen. This can help relieve stress and anxiety – as shorter breathing patterns (from primarily the chest) can cause a kind of “panic” response from your body. Lastly, honing in on your breathing skills can improve strength in the gym as the use of such breathing is imperative in an effective “brace,” activating the abdominals and thoracolumbar fascia.

Note: Bracing techniques should be reserved for heavy lifting. At home, place your focus on where your inhalations are going.

Get to a comfortable place, place your hands on your waist right above your hips. Your fingers tips should be right above the front hip and your thumb along the lower back. Breather through your nose into the floor of your trunk. Shoot to separate your finger tips from your thumb. You should feel air expanding both your stomach and lower back. The chest or rib cage will raise very slightly. Exhale in a controlled fashion through tight / pursed lips while engaging the abdominals.

Between the three you should be spending about 20 – 30m a night. This can be done right before bed and will not only help you sleep better, but vastly improve your performance the following day. Give it a try for a solid week, you won’t stop there!

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One Response to “3 Things You Can Do Tonight, To Improve Your Performance Tomorrow!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Approaching The Bar: Part 2 « Greg Robins - March 15, 2012

    […] I breathe through my nose into my stomach, utilizing diaphragmatic breathing. This helps me activate all the inner stabilizers (muscles you can’t see) of the torso.  I won’t get into the details of breathing. Breathing is very important. It can be practiced and trained. I wrote a small bit about it here. […]

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