Tuesday Tips: How To Build A Sideline Soft Tissue Toolkit, Presented By Spin

Keep yourself and your teammates in the game with good self care techniques and tools.

Ren Caldwell dropping knowledge on self-myofascial release in the RenFitness Soft Tissue Tools series. See more: RenFitness.net.

Soft tissue work is an important element in caring for your muscles and the other connective tissues that surround them. We can’t all travel to practices and tournaments with our own sports massage therapist, so using basic tools to do some self-myofascial release (massaging your own muscles and connective tissues) can keep you in the game. You can use these tools to help bring blood flow into large muscles during warm-up, pinpoint trouble spots in between points, and aid recovery at the end of the day.

With all the different varied soft tissue tools out there – sticks, balls, and rollers in every size and shape – your bag can start to feel so heavy that carrying it to the field earns you a massage. As a player, I’ll admit I’ve gotten to the point that I just hope that one player who always brings the full complement of soft tissue tools will be at practice.

Imagine, instead, everyone on the team being able to count on that equipment being there when you need it most. At RenFitness, we feel that there are a few essential items for a team to have on their sideline, including a foam roller, lacrosse balls, K-tape, and a “Magic Band”. With the help of FiveUltimate, we assembled these soft tissue tools and couple other handy items—including a guide for how to handle minor injuries using these tools—into a complete sideline care kit for your team.

Each tool has its own specific use, so knowing when and how to use each of these tools will make your investment worthwhile. Any time you use soft tissue tools, it’s best to keep your work at a three or four out of ten on the pain scale. You want to dig in with enough force to break up fascial adhesions, little tangles in the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. Too much force, however, will cause you to tense up around the areas you’re working on and can make the problem worse.

Foam Roller

This is the biggest tool, so it’s suited to the biggest muscles. Use it to increase blood flow to your quads, hamstrings, and other large areas of tissue. Simply rolling back and forth across the roller is a great start, but to really dig into fascial adhesions, you can use a couple techniques.

The first one is finding a tough spot, then rocking sideways back and forth over that spot. For example, if in rolling the quad length lengthwise, I might find a knot or a particularly sensitive spot in the middle of the muscle. I can pause at that spot and roll across the long strands of muscle, rather than with them. This cross-friction breaks up unwanted adhesions that bunch muscle tissues.

The second is pinning an adhesion, then moving the next joint down from the muscle. In the example of the quad, this means pausing at the sensitive spot, then bending and straightening the knee while keeping the foam roller in place. By activating the muscle while pinning the knot, you’re causing your muscles to glide through their regular movement and getting the sheath of connective tissue to fall in line with that action.

Lacrosse Balls

Compact but heavier than a dark star, lacrosse balls are great for myofascial release on smaller muscles. There are loads of fancy variations on the lacrosse ball theme—spiky, softer, heated, “peanuts” that are two balls stuck together, you name it. The standard lacrosse ball will do for most uses, and is the one tool that’s a no-brainer to toss in your bag.

For a demo of all our favorite uses of the lacrosse ball, check out this video, a part of RenFitness’s series on soft tissue tools. This series is always available to RenFitness Virtual members.

Kinesiology Tape

K-tape is a great way to facilitate proprioception and decrease swelling in problem areas. Proprioception is your awareness of where your body is in space. Recovering from injuries and other inflammation can hinder our body awareness, leading to further compensation problems.

There are lots of different brands of tape out there with their own special flair and taping methodologies, and many come with their own application guides. In general, there are some standard practices you can use to get the most out of your K-tape use.

  • Never end tape on tape or near the edges of clothing.
  • Use scissors to round the edges at the ends of strips of tape.
  • The paper backing is your friend! Do not touch the adhesive with your fingers.
  • Leave an unstretched “anchor” of 1-2” at each end of each segment of tape.
  • When applying along a muscle, follow the muscle lengthwise with a strip of tape, slightly stretching the tape (except the anchors).
  • When applying across a particularly tough spot or in places like the front of the knee, tear the backing at the middle of the tape and apply with stretch in the middle, anchoring at the sides.

For more detailed explanations and demos of common applications for ultimate players, check out the RenFitness K-tape Workshop with Sports Chiropractor and “Rock Doc” Patrick Silva. This workshop is also always available to RenFitness Virtual members.

“Magic Band”

This tool is also called Voodoo Floss, after the original branding. At RenFitness, we call it the magic band, because it honestly sometimes feels like magic when you use it. Using the band helps work through the minor tweaks and rolls that happen on the field and get you back in the game. It’s also a great resource when recovering from injuries where you’re battling chronic inflammation.

The band is a long strip of rubber that essentially acts like an ACE bandage on steroids. The band works by compressing the an area with a minor injury. When you move the joint or muscle under the band, your muscles help push out old blood and lymphatic fluid that’s pooled in the area in the interest of healing your injury. This gets waste products out of the the area so that when you remove the band, new blood with fresh injury-healing goodies can rush in.

Let’s say you roll your ankle and it feels a little stiff, but you can still walk on it just fine, or maybe you felt a little twinge in your hamstring. You can take a moment on the sideline to wrap your ankle or thigh, stretching the rubber tight over the bothersome parts. Then, move through the joint’s normal actions for 1-2 minutes, including more dynamic movements. Never let any part of your body fall asleep doing this – if something feels wrong, take the band off. Repeat those actions again after you remove the band. People often feel like things suddenly improved – like magic!

Be Smart

Remember this is only a quick fix for minor injuries. If you have a serious injury, listen to your body and any healthcare professionals around you. If you’ve severely sprained your ankle or torn your hamstring, the magic band can help with your healing process, but it won’t get you back on the field.

  1. Bert Abbott

    Bert Abbott, NSCA CSCS, NSPA CSAC, USAW SPC, is a strength & conditioning coach with Strive & Uplift based out of Boulder, CO. As a coach, she's particularly invested in helping teams and individuals move their work in the gym and on the field from simply exercising to sport-specific training. She has captained Seattle Mixtape since 2015 and played mixed club since 2008. You can visit Strive & Uplift, including their virtual services (www.striveanduplift.com) or tweet at Bert (@359bertle).

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