Recovery Techniques: Can Crossfitters and Kelly Starrett at Mobility WOD be on to something with Muscle Flossing

Muscle Flossing: Truly Dishing out Pain

Muscle Flossing, a New Technique for an Athlete’s Recovery: “It will suck, get over it, just do it!”

by Chris Patterson

Recovery is everything. It’s a major misconception that muscle growth occurs during training. Training is merely the stimulus that causes damage to the muscles. The repair of that damage causes muscle growth, which occurs during recovery. Recovery comes from rest, but the question I have been trying to answer is whether recovery can come solely from rest. While I believe sleep really is one of the crucial components of recovery, there are methods that can break down muscle adhesions (knots that occur during training) and cleanup tissue faster than simply resting. Icing has been around for sometime, and many can appreciate the response from icing. Despite recently coming under fire from Crossfit followers, I’ve experienced serious benefits from icing after long rides. Arguably, I can’t, or haven’t, tested the muscle growth I could gain from not icing. I’m also a strong advocate for foam rolling. I would also suggest the effects of massage are great, but the weekend warrior can’t afford such high-dollar faire.

Foam Rolling. Starting two years ago, I bought my first foam-roller on the advice of a friend who previously competed as a gymnast. I bought an OPTP foam roller, which I still routinely use. It’s a rock solid foam tube about 4 feet long that works like a charm. I use it 4 to 6 times a week, concentrating on my legs. Better than a foam roller would be a personal massage therapist or a set of recovery boots (air compression leggings). I don’t have access to either, so I still walk around complaining about delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

I assumed this merely an essential component of training and I couldn’t find anyone doing anything else that was better. I only note that the life of a powerlifter must be compounded with soreness. This is where its important to always follow exercise and training techniques in more than just the sport you practice. While I generally am interested in cycling performance, an interesting technique seems to be gaining traction in the Crossfit realm (I presume some individual should actually be given credit, but I’ll misdirect all kudos to Crossfit . . . it’s just easier). I’ve never done Crossfit and I’m not interested in debating its effectiveness or risk of injury. But Crossfitters have been using “muscle flossing” as an added

Muscle Flossing. In Crossfit, they use a technique called “muscle flossing”, likely made famous by Kelly Starret of MobilityWOD. I learned about it from a friend (not Kelly Starret) discussing the start-up of his gym. My friend told me that you can wrap bands around certain points on your body and take the muscle through an entire range of motion (ROM). This process breaks down adhesions, helps the muscle tissue, and the release of the bands flushes out waste in the legs.

My friend sent me the following e-mail explaining my questions:

“The bands that I like are called voodoo floss bands and Rogue fitness sells them. They come in different levels of strength. Black is a good one to have around for small things, but due to how much muscle I have in my legs from cycling, I like the red ones. I think you will get the most out of those as well.

For your knee I would start wrapping from about 2-3 inches above the knee and wrap downward to around 2 inches below your knee. You will want to have about a .5 – 1 inch overlap and wrap it tight. It will feel like shit and you will think there is no way you can squat, get over it and do it! Do about 10 air squats and then walk around for a couple seconds.

For your thigh there are two ways I like to work. First is a very tight wrap, overlapping about 1 inch and then walk and do runners stretches for 60-90 seconds. When I say tight I mean tight, it will suck. This is best when the muscle has just been worked.

The second way is a lighter wrap that you can leave on for 10 or 15 minutes. Still needs to compress but not like a tourniquet. Walk around, stretch, do some air squats, etc. This works well if your legs are too tight or if you just need mild recovery.

When wrapping your muscles always start at the bottom and wrap upwards. If you are wrapping a joint, start at the top and wrap down. The above link is also the bands that I prefer.”

A glutton for pain, reading “it will suck” so many times sounded to similar to what I tell people when they ask about racing their first 100 miler. “It will suck, get over it, just do it!” The next thing I did was order the bands. Given that Rogue is in Ohio, I received them the next day while I was still sore (I had to include a few Paleo bars and jerky to get free shipping . . . no brainer, right!). I wrapped my right-knee and calf tight. As instructed, the pain started. I did 10 body squats and 10 heel raises to put the muscle through its ROM. I took off the strap and couldn’t believe how fluid and relaxed my muscles felt. I continued doing this once a day--either in the evening on rest days or after any intense workout.

From a subjective standpoint, the results were amazing. I have not, yet, obtained the objective data, but I did read the following articles regarding the process.  I can say that I’m going to try it this season and see what happens in the long run.

I have to credit my friend’s establishment for the advice though, I'd still be lieing around on a foam roller.

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