Muscles. Boy they’re awesome. Not only do they give us shape and make us hot, but they totally help our bones get around and do stuff. And while you’re no doubt already training your muscles to be stronger (and/or bigger), and you’re no doubt already stretching diligently to maintain optimal muscle length, let us consider the importance of soft tissue quality.
Over time, the soft tissue in your body can accrue adhesions (or knots) when for whatever reason (training, bad posture, stressed about an imminent robot apocalypse) the muscle fibers contract and are unable to release. This is probably not earth shattering news; most people have gotten a massage at some point in their life. Let me suggest to you that soft tissue work, whether it be in the form of a massage from a professional or self massage (via foam roller, tennis ball, etc.), is an important part of your overall health and wellness regime. According to Canadian Smart Guy Dean Somerset, soft tissue work can increase blood flow (better nutrient delivery and waste removal), reduce tissue viscosity, improve respiration, and decrease feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
And you thought massages were just an indulgence, huh? Addressing tissue quality is a crucial component on your journey to sexiness. While it won’t directly lead to shedding lbs or setting bench press personal records, good tissue quality will allow you to move better, recover better, and reduce the chance of aches and pains from overly stiff muscles and creaky joints. Nothing beats the skilled hands of a trained massage therapist (NOTE: I’m not referring to Craigslist happy ending kind). That said self massage work (or self myofascial release as we say in my native tongue of “pretentious asshole”) with a foam roller or tennis ball allows you to do some soft tissue work conveniently, frequently, and for free. For a video introduction on how to foam roll, check out this YouTube from Eric Cressey. More foam rolling fun can be found in this article by Tony Gentilcore.
In the interest of giving you the whole story, it should be noted we don’t currently have research to quantify the exact value of self massage work, and some folks in the industry have openly wondered if it’s really directly improving tissue quality at all (most notably everybody’s favorite fascia guru Thomas Myers). Nonetheless, I can tell you it’s definitely made me feel a hell of a lot less beat up since I’ve been employing it regularly, and my clients and almost all of the fitness industry’s top guns will tell you the same.
The take away: take care of your soft tissue quality with a combination of massage therapy and self massage work with foam rollers, tennis balls, and other instruments of torture myofascial release.