Tight, sore and achy muscles – there have been more than a few times on the field where I’ve felt like muscle soreness has held me back. One simple thing every player can do to boost their performance is self care to reduce these aches and pains. The most simple form of self care is one of the most important – stretching. It helps prevent tears and muscle cramps and can increase or maintain range of motion. It has the potential to significantly improve how our muscles and joints feel. There are, however, a few other simple tricks you can do to reduce muscle soreness after a game.
What causes muscle soreness?
First off let me start off by saying it isn’t lactic acid! The biggest myth about muscles is that lactic acid causes muscle fatigue and soreness. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Muscle soreness can be the result of many things; oxygen/energy debt and micro/macro tears being the largest among them. Sometimes it can be caused when the muscles aren’t functioning efficiently, like if they are adhered together. But never is it caused by lactic acid build up!
When I don’t have time to properly treat my muscles I usually do simple stuff. I stretch, drink a ton of water, take a hot bath (I want me a hot-tub) and then stretch again after. The stretching routine I have takes about 5-10 minutes, it is important to get all the muscle groups. I’ll go over more specific things that can be done to more specifically treat the muscles from your feet the your hip flexors. I won’t be including upper body work though as that would take too long. Make sure you are very well hydrated! That alone can lead to muscle soreness and cramping. I have a background in massage therapy so I can’t tell you everything I do to recover after a game as some of the things I do are considered advanced techniques. But, here are some simple tricks for relieving muscle pain.
Feet: This one will treat the muscles and fascia in the feet. First off I start by rolling either a baseball or a can of Axe/ Shaving cream under my foot. I then follow it up by applying pressure to any additional sore spots and holding it until the soreness goes away. After that I follow up with another stretch. When my plantar fascitis is acting up doing this routine reduces the pain dramatically.
Calves: After spending 90 minutes on the balls of your feet your calves can get pretty sore and tight! Treating the muscles that make up the calf can further help treat the feet as well as the hamstrings so getting this area is important. It might sound weird but what I do is roll the muscles out with a rolling pin! It works pretty well actually, I just make sure I wash it when I’m done. After that I do something called “pin and stretch” from the attachment site of the Achilles tendon all the way up to the meaty part of the muscles. I then stretch when I’m done.
How to pin and stretch: It is a pretty simple technique. First flex the muscle, then squeeze the muscle/ tendon enough that you are effecting the muscle fibers, and lastly you stretch out the muscle. Simple, easy and effective if done correctly. This is actually a Massage Therapy technique. This shouldn’t be done to torn or injured muscles as it can also increase the severity of the injury.
Hamstrings: It is usually best to tackle the hamstrings before the quads simply because stretching the quads can sometimes send the hamstrings into a cramp. This routine is just rolling out the muscles with a rolling pin or foam roller and stretching after. There isn’t much that can be done with the hamstrings especially if your hip flexors are tight. Treating them can further affect the hamstrings.
Quads: Stretch, Roll out, Pin and Stretch (in a side lying position or on a foam roller) and compression on the sore spots. I also cross fiber friction (another massage technique that is basically vigorous rubbing with the tips of your fingers with moderate pressure) above and below the patella to treat the tendon. I then end with a stretch.
Glutes: The gluteal muscles are pretty tough, it takes a lot to make them cramp or spasm. However if they are over-tight it can lead to postural deviations such as an out-turned foot/leg which is common with the dominate leg. It is good to take extra time stretching the glutes. There isn’t much that can be done here however, it is very important to stretch to get your legs straight.
Adductors: Stretch moderately and roll out with a rolling pin. These muscles are usually over stretched so it isn’t always important to treat them unless they are sore, in danger of injury or if there is scar tissue.
Hip Flexors*: These ones are pretty important to get as it will reduce the stress on the hamstrings if they are over-tight. The stretch for them isn’t commonly taught or focused on so here is a short video on how to stretch them. You should do it slower than the guy in the video but You’ll get an excellent stretch out of it. I do a few other things but they are all advanced techniques and shouldn’t be attempted.
Get a Massage, Do Yoga, and Work Out Correctly!
This can be the most effective thing of all. Massage can treat every muscle group to the point of increasing performance noticeably as well as relieving pain. I’ve experienced it first hand myself from role of client and therapist and there is nothing like it. I’ll be making up an article specifically detailing all the benefits of massage. Yoga is also very important for muscle health as it conditions, strengthens, increases range of motion and promotes overall body health, I wrote a piece on it by itself already. It is also important to have an effective and safe exercise routine and habits.
If you have any tricks for relieving your own muscle pain leave a comment!