By Tim Robards
Rolling, mobilisations and self-massage techniques to increase your upper body strength and crush your next powerlifting or crossfit session!
Anyone who trains regularly is always looking for that edge, that extra few percent in performance that can keep them moving forward and crushing their PB’s. There’s also a few of us out there that are coming back from injury and are chasing simply getting back to where we were pre injury and hopefully going further!
The problem is, we spend so much time worrying about power and strength, we forget how vital mobility, fascial tension and tendon health is.
In this blog I want to focus on the shoulders and upper thoracic, which is extremely important for upper body power, especially overhead. Limitations here will also have an effect on the neck and lower back so this can really be essential knowledge for everyone who wants more power, less injuries and wants to crush their PB’s.
Key muscles (and anatomy lesson 101)
Do a quick Google search on these muscles so you can visualise them.
- Lats – your bat wings under your arms that basically pull your elbow to your hip
- Pecs – Brings your elbow to opposite chest
- Subscapularis – Internal shoulder rotator, located deep between the pec and the lat under the arm on the front side of the scapula
- Infraspinatus/teres minor – External shoulder rotator, located on the back of the scapula, from the back tip of the shoulder/humerous
- Rhomboids – scapular retractor that lies between the spine and the scapula in the upper back.
What type of roller do I use?
One of the most effective rollers I have used has been a double ball type roller. It is about the size of two tennis balls and available online or at sports retailers. For a DIY option, try hard tennis balls in a sock tied up tight or a stocking can be a great option. They are the perfect size for getting into trigger points but having two balls instead of one helps to stabilise so it’s not slipping around everywhere and also allows you to balance and distribute pressure as you like. They are also much less cumbersome than a large foam roller and can fit into your backpack. In saying this, a big foam roller is better than no foam roller at all! Aim for 10-20 minutes a day, use it as your meditation time if need be.
How do I roll?
There are 3 main ways I like to hit the muscle.
- Find a tender trigger point in the belly of the muscle and sit on it and relax into it with deep breathing. You may do a little rocking action and come off it once the pain and tension releases at least below a 5/10 threshold.
- Get up into the attachment where the muscle attaches onto the bone and follow a similar approach to the above.
- Softer and gentle longer rolling. Either find an angle to reduce the pressure a little or use a broader foam roller and release over a larger area of the muscle at once.
How to self-massage with Deep Heat PRO
I like to always start with 30-60 seconds of vigorous massage with the intent to warm up and stimulate blood flow. Deep Heat PRO sports prep massage lotion is great because it provides a heating sensation – and of course that nostalgic smell that gets me in the mindset of smashing your goals!. The combination of heat and massage helps to promote blood flow and warm-up and loosen tight muscles.
Once the muscle is warmed up, from there you can hone into certain muscles. Feel through the muscle belly and feel for tight lumps/clumps or leathery feeling muscles. One technique I like to use is releasing the muscle with active movement. It involves shortening the muscle, holding down on the trigger point or muscle belly, and then extending the limb, lengthening the muscle and dragging it under your thumb or fingers. You can do this 3-10 times and increase pressure as you go. If we use the bicep as an example, you would bend the arm, clamp down on the bicep mid muscle belly with your thumb with your Deep Heat massage lotion applied, then start to extend your arm whilst holding your pressure down on the muscle and feeling it drag under your contact like you’re rolling out pizza dough.