Soft Tissue Treatment: The Missing Piece

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to train basketball players of all ages, skill sets and performance profiles.  When looking back at all the players I have trained, they all possessed one commonality.  They simply did not know how to adequately prepare and regenerate their bodies before or after practices, games or training sessions.  

Every basketball specific task (jab step, sprint, shuffle) you make on the court utilizes the capabilities of your soft tissue system (muscles).  Keeping your muscular system healthy throughout the season will improve your performance exponentially.  Let’s face it, every player at some point in their career has experienced the harsh reality that the demands of the season place upon the body.  Fatigued legs, muscle strains, sluggish movement all of the above are a player’s and coaches worst nightmare.  However, all of your problems can be alleviated by focusing on soft tissue quality.  I understand that you may be a bit skeptical. Listed below are a few benefits associated with implementing a soft tissue treatment regimen into your training program.

  • Correct Muscle Imbalances = Improved resistance to injury
  • Increased Joint Range of Motion (ROM) = Improved Strength, Force Production and Injury Prevention
  • Decreased Muscle Soreness = Improved Recovery
  • Increased Neuromuscular Function = Improved Muscle Activation, Strength, Explosion, Speed, Agility and Quickness.

I approach my training in a science based yet practical manner.  In a nutshell, I implement what works.  Nothing more…nothing less.  I do not attempt to reinvent the wheel for the sake of innovation.  So rest assured, attending to the health of your body’s soft tissue will certainly elevate your game to the next level. 

Self Myofascial Release or foam rolling exercise is a self massage method which basically serves as a rolling pin for your muscles.   At Montrose Christian School (Rockville, MD), we perform the following foam rolling program before and after any training session, practice or game.  At first, our guys were a bit skeptical.  However, after performing the following program twice a day/3 days per week, our team quickly adopted it into their daily “to-do” list.

For each exercise, I recommend performing 12-15 repetitions or for approximately 1-2 minutes in duration on each leg.  When performing a foam rolling program, it is important to adhere to the following guidelines:

1.  Position your body properly on the foam roller.  Poor body alignment will prevent the isolation of the intended muscle or muscle groups during each exercise. 

2.  Treat the muscle along its entire length to restore tissue length and balance.  Only spend time on one specific area if you feel an abnormal amount of tightness or soreness along the muscle unit.   Spending time on an area that does not contain scar tissue, adhesions or knotting/tightness will result in poor tissue balance and untreated muscle segments.

3.  Foam rolling exercise is what its name implies.  It’s an exercise, you should be sweating.  Approach every aspect of your training in a methodical manner.  You will not experience the benefits that this modality possesses if you do not exert the effort, focus and consistency it requires.

4. If pain is experienced while rolling, stay or rest on the painful area for 30-45 seconds.  If you continue to roll while pain is present you will experience an increased level of tightness/pain in the associated muscle group.

Position 1: Gluteus Maximus

Gluteus Maximus

Set-Up: Sit on the roller with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Hands should be placed behind your body as well as the foam roller.

How: Lean to one side, applying pressure to each side.  When rolling, each rep should travel from the low back to the glute-hamstring insertion. 

Performance:  Perform 12-15 reps on each side. 

Position 2:  Piriformis

Piriformis

Set-Up: Sit on the roller and lean to one side.  With the leg of the side you leaned toward, place the foot on your opposite knee.  Example: If you lean to your left side, take your right hand of the ground then place your left foot on your right knee and brace with the right hand.

How:  Lean to one side to apply pressure to the muscle unit.  When rolling, each rep should travel from the low back to the middle of the Glute complex.  Try rolling at different angles to treat the piriformis adequately.  It is a difficult muscle to target and rolling at different dimensions will improve the success rate of isolating the area. 

Performance:  Perform 12-15 reps on each side.

Position 3:  Hamstring

Toe Up

Toe In

Toe Out

Set- Up:  Place and sit on the foam roller in the middle of the hamstring muscle group.  The leg being treated is extended with the opposite leg bent with the foot flat on the ground.  The hands are placed flat on the ground behind the body and the foam roller.

How:  When rolling the hamstring, different toe angles should be used to target each muscle that composes the hamstring complex. Each rep should travel from the glute-hamstring insertion to the posterior knee.   The three positions we use at Montrose are:

1.  Toe up at 12 o’clock,

2.  Toe in (hip internally rotated) at approximately 2 o’clock on the left leg and approximately 10 o’clock on the right leg

3.  Toe out (hip externally rotated) at approximately at 10 o’clock on the left leg and at approximately 2 o’clock on the right leg.

Performance:  Perform 8-12 repetitions at each toe angle on each side of the body.  Each hamstring is complete when approximately 24-36 repetitions on each leg are administered.

Position 4:  Iliotibial Band (IT Band)

Iliotibial Band (IT Band)

Set-Up:  Place and lay on the foam roller in the middle of the lateral thigh.  The leg that is being treated is straight and fully extended, the opposite leg is crossed over in front of the body with the foot flat and toe pointed straight. 

How:  The toe of the treatment leg is internally rotated at approximately 10-15 degrees.  When rolling the IT band, each repetition should travel from the lateral hip to the neighboring lateral knee. 

Performance:  Perform 12-15 repetitions on each leg.  Additional repetitions may be required at the coach/players discretion since this is a common area of tightness for most basketball players.  This is an essential area to treat with players that have lateral knee pain. 

Position 5: Quadricep

Quadricep (3 Toe Positions)

Set- Up:  Place and lay on the roller in the middle of the quadricep.  The leg receiving treatment is straight and the opposite leg is bent with the toe in contact with the ground. 

How: Similar to the hamstring, different toe angles should be used to target each muscle unit that composes the quadricep  complex.  Each rep should travel from the anterior hip (hip flexor) to the anterior knee.  The three toe positions we use at Montrose are:

1.  Toe down at 6 o’clock

2.  Toe in (Hip internally rotated) at approximately 4 o’clock on the left leg and at approximately 8 o’clock on the right leg.

3.  Toe out (hip externally rotated) at approximately at 8 o’clock on the left leg and at approximately 4 o’clock on the right leg.

Performance:  Perform 8-12 repetitions at each toe angle on each side of the body.  Each quadricep is complete when approximately 24-36 repetitions on each leg are administered.

Position 6:  Adductor Complex

Adductor

Set-Up: Place and lay on the roller in the middle of the inner thigh.  The leg receiving treatment is bent at 90 degrees, the opposite leg is straight.  The arms are bent and the athlete is supporting their bodyweight on their forearms with the chin directly over the hands.  The stomach is elevated off the ground while performing each repetition.

How:  Each repetition should travel from the groin to the medial knee. 

Performance:  Perform 12-15 repetitions on each leg.

Position 7:   Latissimus Dorsi

Latissimus Dorsi

Set-Up:  Set up in a side lying position with the roller placed in the middle of the latissimus dorsi.  The bottom arm is elevated and extended straight off of the floor. 

How:  When rolling the latissimus dorsi, the roller should travel from the arm pit to the lateral hip/lumbar region.   To improve the treatment of this area, externally rotate your arm.  On the left hand, your thumb should be pointed toward 10 o’clock.  When treating the right side, your thumb should be pointed at approximately 2 o’clock.

How:  Perform 12-15 repetitions on each side. 

To purchase a foam roller, I recommend you visit Perform Better.  The foam roller pictured in this article is a 12” roller which makes it great for travel, storage and use in a team training setting.  

If you have any further questions regarding soft tissue treatment, corrective exercise or basketball performance enhancement, feel free to contact Matt at mattjohnson@strengthcoachconcepts.com 

Posted Jun 13, 2011 by Matt Johnson.
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