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Harder, faster, more
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How can I punch and kick harder”?
To increase power, speed and agility my first response to this question is to look at the individuals athletic performance, which can sometimes be over looked by trying to find the ‘latest exercise’ or developing over complicated training programmes. We need to strip back the layers to the underlying belly of athletic performance and you get what Mike Boyle, former strength and conditioning coach for Boston University, believes to be the ‘Big Rocks’ of strength and conditioning. He advocates functional movement before functional performance.
What do we mean by functional movement?
Put simply functional movement is the ability to move without restriction or flexibility. This can be achieved by Self Myo Fascial Release (sMFR). sFMR is a technique that massages the fascia network throughout the body. Fascia can be thought of as a body stocking that surrounds muscles, ligaments, bones and tendons from the very tip of the toes to the top of the cranium. It is also interwoven through blood vessels and the nervous system. There is a deep layer called the epimysium which surrounds the fascia, this is where movement and postural imbalances occur commonly around the hip, pelvis and lower back.
Many MMA fighters that have come through our strength and conditioning clinics have all had asymmetries or unilateral tightness in their glutes, hips, lumbar back and hamstrings. This is mainly because of inadequate stretching techniques and not knowing when, why and what to stretch. Inflexibility should not be thought of tight prime movers such as the quads, hip and hams etc, but tightness in the connective tissue the fascia and the build up of collagen deposits. These forces of tension and compression can cause trigger points (knots) in the muscle. These knots can constrict blood vessels, restrict nutrient distribution and increase the build up of waste produces contributing to tighter and weaker muscle fibres causing great losses in power, speed and agility.
All of the above rely upon an intacked balanced facial network. Put simply, if you are not stretching fascia you won’t get flexible and your striking power will suffer as a result.
A simple example of sMFR which can be seen very clearly is the release of the hamstrings and lower back tension by massaging the feet with a tennis ball.
1. Stand with feet together and try to touch the toes. Record the depth at which your flexibility is restricted.
2. Place a tennis ball beneath one foot and begin to massage the sole of the foot with forward, backward and circular motions for approx 1 min. Ensuring the arch of the foot is covered which is the most common sore area. Repeat for the other foot.
3. After you have massaged both feet stand once again with feet together and touch the toes once more and record the depth.
What did you notice? You gained an extra 2-3 inches on your stretch without needless painful hamstring stretches. Magic!
Well, not quite. The feet are the foundation of the body, they have the greatest concentration of proprioceptors (nerve endings) throughout the body. By stimulating these and the fascia the entire fascia network relaxes causing great increases in flexibility.
There are many sMFR techniques that can be applied to the entire body using just a tennis ball. In our clinics we focus upon the hip area of the 6 deep rotators to gain greater mobility crucial for athletic movement enabling our fighters to increase greater forces.
It is easy to over look functional movement and neglect stretching after class but it is not until after a sustained injury it becomes apparent that functional movement is essential. So give yourself the knowledge and tools for better movement and functional ability for harder kicks and punches. Without such tools non professional athletes are at serious risk of become slow and weaker thus effecting the ability to increase and maximise performance.