- The foam roller may be the single biggest time waster in the fitness industry.
- A majority of studies show that kinesio tape doesn’t help with performance. And unless you’re a specialist, it won’t help much with injuries.
- It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to actually add length to a muscle by performing static stretching.
- The first two letters of the RICE prescription (rest and ice) should be largely ignored.
Things That Can Bite You in the Ass
People who are trying to heal themselves using self-administered rehabilitation and regeneration techniques are often doing more harm than good.
With the mainstream popularity of things like foam rollers, stretching protocols, and even tape to enhance joint and body position, it’s time to set the record straight.
Here, in order of descending stupidity, are the four most useless rehab methods that not only have limited carryover in performance and health, but can actually come back around to bite you in the ass.
#4 Foam Rolling
The foam roller may be the single biggest time waster in the fitness industry.
Soft tissue work including foam rolling, trigger point work, and even my hands-on self myofascial-release (SMR) techniques need to be focused and goal oriented processes. If you find yourself rolling the same muscles every single day, it’s safe to say that your “practice” isn’t yielding any notable results.
You know who has the right idea with self-sufficient soft-tissue work? Mobility expert Kelly Starrett. He doesn’t call this practice foam rolling. Instead it’s referred to as “smashing” and he uses specific tools on select regions of the body.
Putting yourself into some serious pain in hopes of tissue deformation (and subsequent remodeling) and muscle tone reduction is what you need to create long lasting results.
#3 Kinesio Tape
Since when has wrapping yourself up like a brightly-colored mummy become a prerequisite for being an athlete?
Though kinesiotape has been in use in the therapy industry for a while now, everything went into overdrive after the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
But was it really? Since that time, there have been countless research articles published looking into the efficacy of kinesio tape for both pain modulation and performance enhancement.
Unfortunately, a majority of studies show that the tape is of no more help to an athlete’s performance than any other faddist trend we’ve seen sputter through the industry.
The thought is that tape can be strategically placed over the skin in areas that can either inhibit or facilitate muscular tone, thus enhancing joint positions and the production of muscular force.
There are rehab experts out there that swear K-tape is the most game-changing tool they’ve used for enhancing the performances of their athletes, but the chances of it working when an amateur with no experience administrates the tape is about as likely as an ice cube’s chance in hell.
What we have to ask is, what exactly does static stretching do to the human body, and does it have a place in athletic performance and reducing injury rates?
It’s important to mention that physiologically speaking, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to actually add length to a contractile tissue such as a muscle.
What’s essentially happening with any type of mobilization of an area is the relaxation of that muscle and the reduction of its tone, which are largely neuromuscular properties, not mechanical.
Now that we got that straight, here’s the deal. Static stretching of a tissue over a 45-second period has been shown to increase muscular flexibility that may even last more than 24-hours in certain muscle groups.
That increased range of motion may be a double-edged sword, especially when executed right before an athletic event or workout.
If you’re stretching with the intent of reducing likelihood of sustaining an injury during athletic participation, the verdict is still out. What we do know is stretching can reduce muscular force and power output in certain muscle groups, which can potentially decrease the level of performance.
Not exactly what you were thinking when you went down to touch your toes, is it?
Do This Instead
Static stretching done for long durations has its place in a select population of people who are literally so tonic (shortened and tightened) that administering a stretch is the only way to prevent serious and debilitating contractures.
For the rest of us, the use of dynamic stretching and oscillating protocols can get the job done without adding to the traditional problems posed by stretching.
Dynamic warm-ups are nothing new by now, and should be programmed before every type of exercise, training, or athletic event to increase local blood flow to active tissues, lubricate joints, increase core temperature, and prime the neural system.
As for adding functional length to problematic tissues, the use of oscillations – moving in and out of near end-range of motion – for specific tissues can lead to marked improvements in the tone of tissues without overstressing the musculotendinous junctions that notoriously take the brunt of a static stretch hit.
Simply put the muscle you’re targeting into an end-range stretched position. Move back and forth, in and out of an end-range stretch, nice and easy with an oscillating motion.
This stretch on, stretch off range-of-motion may only be an inch or two, but it will be far easier on the tendons and non-contractile tissues.
Do this back and fourth like a pumping motion, attempting to get just a little more range of motion through those tissues each time. Stick to 60-120 seconds per tissue to start with and work your way up to 5 minutes at a time if you can stomach the tension.
In 1978, The Sports Medicine Book, authored by Dr. Gabe Mirkin,introduced the concept of RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation – for the treatment of athletic injuries. It makes sense to ice down an injury as soon as possible to limit swelling and maintain function, right?
In 2014, Dr. Mirkin went on record debunking his own work pertaining to the ice portion of the RICE acronym for acute musculoskeletal injury management. It takes a special man to admit that countless research articles and reviews had disproved his life’s work, but we’re all glad he did.
Not only did the use of cryo-therapy not aid in the healing process, it actually delayed the healing process altogether.
And while he was at it, Dr. Mirkin also shed some light on his recommendation for complete rest after sustaining an injury. “With minor injuries, you can usually begin rehabilitation the next day,” said Mirkin.
Hey, if the guy who literally wrote the book on injury management is saying don’t restrict movement or ice an acutely injured area, we damn well better listen!
Do This Instead
It’s a good thing there were a few more letters in the RICE acronym that stood the test of time.
Compression and elevation of acutely injured areas are still highly effective and should be prioritized after sustaining a low to moderate-level injury. Along the same lines, you might want to experiment with VooDoo Floss.
But as far as rest and ice (R and I), it’s best to rethink those letters.
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