Recommended Equipment and Training Tools
Many times, having the right tool for the job makes everything go much smoother – this is also true when it comes to improving Movement Quality and preparing for training or competition. Smooth, fluid, and controlled movements are a good sign that an individual is in control of his or her body and is ready to perform.
Here are several highly recommended tools for training:
Mini-Loop Resistance Bands
First off, these ‘mini-bands’ are very inexpensive; definitely a positive. More importantly, these mini-bands allow an individual to practice a wide range of PreHab Exercises starting with Band Walk variations for Hip Activation.
Use these mini-bands to fire up the Glutes and Hip Stabilizers as well as a way to activate the Shoulder Rotators and the very important Posterior Tibialis.
In short, these mini-bands deliver a huge bang for their buck and should be a part of any PreHab Training Toolbox.
These Large Loop Resistance Bands come in several different ‘strengths’ or amounts of resistance, which correlates to the band’s overall density.
For many Joint Distraction exercises, you want a Large-Loop Resistance Band that can support the majority of your body weight.
These bands are usual 1½ inches wide.
As for Activation, Integration and Stability exercises, you want a ‘lighter’ band, which offers a noticeable amount of resistance as well as a relatively large amount of Range of Motion when it comes to movement.
These bands are usually ½ – ¾ inch wide.
All in all, Large-Loop Resistance Bands are very versatile when it comes to training. You can perform Pallof Presses, Single-Leg Deadlifts, Hip Hinges, Band Pull Aparts, Chops/Lifts, Resisted Bird Dogs, Resisted Dead Bugs, and you can use these Large-Loop Resistance Bands in your Strength Training exercises as a way to create ‘Dynamic Resistance’ and really fire up your neuromuscular system!
At the end of the day, it is better to have them than to miss out on all the exercises you can practice with them. They are well worth the cost!
Some times referred to as ‘Resistance Bands,’ Resistance Tube are made with elastic material and are fitted with handles at the ends, making it particularly easy to use for pulling or pushing exercises.
Resistance Tubes are commonly used for Shoulder Internal/Eternal Rotation exercises, but many other PreHab Exercises can use these tubes, including: Shoulder Protraction/Retraction, Lateral Squat Walks for Hip Activation, Supine Shoulder Extension and/or Leg Lowering for Pillar (Shoulder, Spine, Hip) Integration, Pallof Presses, Trunk Rotations, Lateral Lunges with Driver, and many more.
Resistance Tubes are relatively inexpensive and easy to carry in a bag or store in a gym, which ultimately makes them a worthy tool to have considering the amount of exercises that can be performed with them no matter the location.
Simply put, if you are a creative individual, you will certainly find Resistance Tubes a valuable piece of equipment to have in your toolbox.
SOFT TISSUE THERAPY
Foam Rolling and other Soft Tissue Therapy techniques have been proven to most effective, equal to PNF stretching, in regards to improving Mobility and Range of Motion.
Click Here to get a copy of the PreHab Exercise Book for Soft Tissue Therapy
High Density Foam Roller
There are many different kinds of rollers out on the market today and, unfortunately, many of them are just not worth it, especially if you are just starting out with soft tissue therapy.
High Density Foam Rollers are inexpensive and can surely do an impactful job when it comes to soft tissue therapy. One of the most important factors of success in soft tissue therapy is developing the habit of roller as well as developing the skill in rolling.
Successful rolling means there is actually change in the tissue; the body lets go of stored ‘tension’ that allows the Myofascial Trigger Points (Knots) to release and the muscles to lengthen once again. However, many people roll too fast or too aggressive (with elaborate rollers that ‘grasp’ the tissue) and cause irritation, which causes the tissue to hold on to the tension, if not build more tension, and there is no release.
If at a beginning skill level in rolling, purchase a High Density Foam Roller and get started on your ‘10,000 hours of mastery’ in soft tissue therapy.
Intermediate practitioners of soft tissue therapy are recommended to use a ‘trigger point’ roller with a graded pad wrapped around a solid plastic tube, which provides a greater magnitude on each roll.
Again, this type of roller is recommended for individuals who know how to effectively relax the tissue while delivering a high amount of pressure for prolonged periods of time.
When the Rumbler Roller first came out, I was very excited to use it and, as I expected, it provided a very ‘aggressive’ type of roll, which was perfect for me before a workout as well as for the dense patches of scar tissue in my lower legs. I was able to create a noticeable amount of ‘separation’ within my scar tissue with the Rumbler and I was able to restore an adequate amount of Range of Motion to my ankles.
Additionally, I was able to penetrate deeply into thick areas of tissue, mainly on the thighs, hips, back, and chest, with the Rumbler, which made my mobility work before a training session go very quickly.
The Rumbler Roller is ideal for a seasoned athlete to use before an intense training session or by an individual looking to break up patches of well-laid scar tissue. However, the Rumbler is not recommended for cool down sessions or for individuals new to soft tissue therapy. Don’t worry, newbies, you will get your chance all in due time!
Since the barbell is made of metal, there is no ‘give’ to it like a High-Density Foam Roller, which means the tissue has to provide all the ‘give.’ Better put, rolling with a barbell is a surefire way to penetrate the tissue and cause changes by specifically applying direct pressure to Myofascial Trigger Points (Knots), dislodging adhesions, and moving fluid (metabolic waste and oxygenated blood) through the tissue to facilitate tissue regeneration.
Additionally, the barbell provides a certain amount of weight (depending on how you position the barbell on your body, i.e. Leverage and Load) that combines with the density of the metal surface to create a ‘bulldozer’ effect through the tissue – rolling out all the knots and stagnant fluid stuck within the tissue.
More importantly, the weight of the barbell allows the individual to relax more while rolling, inducing a more Parasympathetic ‘tone’ of the Nervous System, which ultimately commands overactive muscle fibers to finally release and lengthen.
Chances are your gym already has a barbell you can use. If not, then this is just another reason to get a good barbell for use in your training.
The rollers are great for rolling the Quadriceps (Leg), Hamstrings (Leg), Vastus Lateralis (Leg), and Calf muscles. The roller is very dense, which helps penetrate these commonly tight and overactive muscles. At the same time, the roller comes wrapped in a soft fabric that helps regulate the amount of pressure on the soft tissue, making the rolling more effective because we want to be able to ‘relax’ while rolling to help the tissue ‘release’ and lengthen.
Personally, I use these Trigger Point Rollers in my living room while I watch television in the evening with my wife; it helps me accomplish more at once.
As mentioned before, this Trigger Point Kit comes with Trigger Point Balls that have several soft tissue therapy benefits. A ball is easy to control, allowing the effective treatment of specific areas – especially those hard to reach areas a roller can’t get to, such as around the Scapulae or in down the middle of the Shin, i.e. Posterior Tibalis.
The Trigger Point Balls come wrapped in fabric, which softens the pressure from the ball. These balls are recommended for individuals just starting out with soft tissue therapy just for this reason. However, for more experienced practitioners, I recommend either a lacrosse ball, baseball, or golf ball.
At the same time, even experienced soft tissue therapists can still utilize the Trigger Point Balls; I still use mine when I want to get in some tissue work as I relax at home.
Yoga Tune-Up Balls
Equinox Fitness has a host of these Yoga Tune-Up Balls in their gyms for members and trainers to use, which is fitting since Jill Miller started her Yoga Tune-Up practice in their Santa Monica club.
When I am at Equinox, I grab one of these balls and perform some soft tissue therapy before or after my workout. I personally like to use these balls in combination with the Power Plate (a vibration platform) or on the hard wood floor of the yoga studio. These balls have quite a lot of ‘give’ to them, which is an asset when rolling over a hard wood floor. However, when I am looking to get deeper into my tissue, I will again defer to a lacrosse ball, baseball, or golf ball.
Yoga Tune-Up balls are great to use for individuals just starting out with soft tissue therapy or in conjunction with other mobility practices and tools.
Lacrosse Ball, Baseball and Golf Ball
As I have mentioned already, I like to use either a Lacrosse ball, baseball, and/or golf ball for soft tissue therapy for a couple of reasons. One, they are all relatively inexpensive or free if you or someone you know already has one. On top of that, there’s a high probability that you could actually find one of these balls randomly throughout the day. In other words, these three types of balls should be easy to find.
More importantly, these balls are very useful for soft tissue therapy because of their density. They are ‘hard’ and have little or no ‘give’ to them, which means they have a greater ability to ‘deform’ or change the targeted tissue than some of the previously mentioned balls– that is, as long as the participant can stay relaxed enough.
When using a lacrosse ball, baseball, or golf ball, there is a possibility of being ‘counter productive’ when it comes to soft tissue therapy, meaning that when an individual is pressing too hard with these ‘solid’ balls, the tissue may begin to tense up as a form of production. To avoid this counterproductive phenomena it’s very important to adjust the amount of pressure being used and focus on breathing with large exhales to stay relaxed and allow the knots to release and the tissue to lengthen.
Self-Massage Tool (H Bar)
One of my favorite soft tissue therapy tools is the ‘H Bar,’ which is named after its shape. I received a complementary H Bar many moons ago from Equinox and have held onto it because it is so simple to use and very practical.
The H Bar comes with a handle that connects four balls together. The balls are grouped into pairs, which conveniently helps to ‘squeeze’ the tissue and smooth out Myofascial Trigger Points (Knots) within the tissue.
The H Bar is not easy to find in stores, but is readily available on Amazon for a good price. It’s certainly worth it.
Back Knobber or Thera Cane
This next soft tissue therapy tool is a larger self-massage tool that has two popular branded model: the Back Knobber and the Thera Cane.
I have the Back Knobber, which I use often, though I have also used the Thera Cane on the occasions they’ve been available from other trainers or gyms I’ve been to. Both tools serve the same purpose – to facilitate self-massage, especially on hard to reach places such as the back.
I bought the Back Knobber because of the design; it’s simple and comes apart, making it easy to travel with. However, there is not much of a difference between the two different models when it comes to functioning as a self-massage tool. Both help smooth out the dreaded knots (myofascial trigger points) in the Trapezius, Rhomboids, and Erector Spinae (Back Muscles) that I could not pinpoint with a roller or even a ball. The Back Knobber and Thera Cane allow for more precision when it comes to smoothing out knots in the back, which makes for a valuable tool!
The Posture Ball has about the same density and size (diameter) as a high density foam roller. However, the Posture Ball’s spherical shape allows it to roll in more directions. Its acute angle allows for deeper penetration into the soft tissue to eliminate knots and even clear out adhesions and scar tissue, which is another plus!
I use the Posture Ball to massage my personal training clients to loosen them up before a training session. I literally roll the ball over them and cross-fiber (rolling across the soft tissue’s striations) to break up knots and adhesions. This technique is very effective especially since I am not a licensed massage therapist and therefore am not allowed to use my hands as manual therapy with clients. Working with the Posture Ball or a Myofascial Stick is a way for trainers to get closer to ‘hands-on’ soft tissue therapy.
As mentioned before, I like to use the Myofascial Stick on my personal training clients because it helps me get a little more ‘hands-on’ in their soft tissue therapy practice and show them how to do it effectively. Also, by working with the Myofascial Stick as well as the Posture Ball, I can develop a more accurate sense of the way my personal training clients’ tissues work – I get a feeling of where the knots are and how big or painful they are. Then I build a mental map to understand how these knots are affecting their bodies and movement.
Other great attributes for the Myofascial Stick: its inexpensive and portable! I can literally take it with me wherever I go!
When it comes to training, shoes are very important because they are usually (but not only) the main point of contact with the ground. The mechanics of a shoe affect the biomechanics of the individual’s training, therefore, every individual needs to carefully consider what he puts on his feet.
I am a big fan of Minimalist Shoes because these shoes have the smallest margin of ‘interference’ on our biomechanics and movement.
The foot and ankle, as well as knee, hip, and spine, are full of mechanoreceptors and proprioceptors that constantly monitor the amount of length and tissue in our tissues to communicate neurological signals that command muscles to fire and coordinate our movements.
Now, when the foot is on top of a thick soled shoe, the transmission of forces from foot to ground (and vice versa) are muted and distorted. These forces are called ‘ground reaction’ forces, and when they are muted, the body cannot accurately react or coordinate movements with precision. This is not ideal, especially when we want to move as well as possible!
Another way to think about it: imagine you go to a concert to watch your favorite band, but you are wearing ear plugs. Whether it’s a classical music orchestra or an elaborate, high-priced rock concert, your appreciation of the music will be dampened because you cannot hear it clearly.
Minimalist shoes provide us with the opportunity to produce ‘clean’ movements and develop more accuracy and efficiency in the Movement Patterns that we train, ultimately improving Movement Quality and performance.
My favorite brand of minimalist shoes are Inov8 for a couple of reasons. One, they are durable. I have had one pair of running shoes last me over two years (I did not wear them everyday, but I wore them a lot!) Two, I appreciate their array of colorful designs and models. Inov8 offers shoes for street running, trail running, mud running, cross training, and even weightlifting.
Here are some of the Inov8 shoes I use:
Since all of us in modern societies spend a majority of our time walking (and training) on hard, flat surfaces (as opposed to natural terrain like grass fields and trails), it’s recommended to wear ‘soled’ shoes, i.e. shoes that have a marginal to thicker sole on them.
Alternating your daily footwear choices between ‘soled’ shoes and minimalist shoes will help your feet (and ankles) reduce the physiological strain that occurs when walking, standing, or training on hard flat surfaces for prolonged periods.
A simpler way to say this is: if you work, live, and train on natural terrain only, then wear only minimalist shoes. However, if you spend a large portion of your time working, training, and living on hard, flat surfaces, then rotate between minimalist shoes and ‘soled’ shoes over the course of a week to give support and comfort to your feet.
In time, it is possible to wear only minimalist shoes (or no shoes) if your fitness level and lifestyle allows it. If your feet and ankles develop enough strength and endurance to maintain a reflexive and high (not too high) arch in the foot throughout the entire day, then by all means – just go minimalist!
Being minimalist in a modern world takes a certain level of conditioning. Until that level of conditioning is reached, I recommend having a shoe rotation.