It’s not something we do a ton of but it is something you should work into your fitness regimen more and more. Yes, most CrossFit coaches cure-all to any ache and pain…rolling out. Whether it be a foam roller or lacrosse ball, “rolling out” can help a decent amount of soft tissue strains and pulls.
Before we dive any deeper though, let’s discuss soft tissue. Soft tissue is just the medical terminology for muscle. Although, it does include the natural body fat that humans carry as well as the body fat that surrounds vital organs. When we say soft tissue though we’re just referring to the muscle tissue that you’re likely to sprain, strain or get a bruise on when doing something physical.
Now, typically what we see in the gym with these types of injuries is a result of poor mobilization of joints prior to movement. In other words, it’s WAY more likely that you’re going to strain something if the only joint mobilization you do is in the 10 minutes before you workout. You spend roughly 16 other hours of your day stuck at a desk or sitting down somewhere, not making sure joints are moving the way they’re supposed to. Then you come to the gym, do the 10 minutes of prehab that we do in our warm up and expect that to be enough to overcome the other 16 hours of non-moving/being stuck in poor positions. It isn’t a fair fight.
So, we see a joint not having its full range of motion capacity, we try to take the joint to a place it’s not ready to go in a workout, and our brains say, “not today, Satan!” and rather than allowing you to do real damage to yourself the soft tissue around the joint flares up and you have yourself a strain. It really is a protective effort by your body.
How do we ensure joints have full range of motion though? Well this, along with once you’ve already strained something, is where rolling out comes in. We need to ensure that the tissue around the joint is loose enough to allow for the joint to be taken through its full range of motion. If the tissue is tight, it’s going to restrict the movement around the joint. For example, if the muscles in my upper back or chest are tight, when I go to externally rotate my shoulder in a snatch, it’s likely that my shoulder isn’t going to get there the way it’s supposed to so we have to compensate by catching the bar overhead in a bad shoulder position. This is why you should first spend some time rolling the tissue out AT HOME and go through some stretches there before coming into the gym. Rolling out is not something you can do before a workout because just like a massage, it tells the muscles to relax which is the opposite of what we want to happen before a workout.
Once you have a strain you can start to repair it by rolling out the painful area. However, that’s really only half the battle. You then need to stretch the surrounding joints, as well as activate some of the smaller muscle groups around the strain. I know it’s a lot but rather than waiting for injuries to occur — take action and spend some time rolling out at home and stretching before bed!
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