Aside from the general need to “warm-up” and “cool-down” prior to and post workout, respectively, there are some additional tools that can be used to accelerate fitness improvement. Here are a few thoughts on stretching, rolling, and percussive therapies.
Stretching is generally good for anytime except prior to any activity that is explosive or requires relative high intensity. Studies have shown that stretching can temporarily slightly weaken the muscle, so it would not be a good idea obviously to stretch before an activity that requires one’s close to maximal high intensity effort. One interesting note regarding static stretching is that it appears that it is more mental than physical in that the muscle may not actually be lengthening, but instead that our tolerance to how far it can be stretched before the pain limits us improves. Some studies have found that meditation can be as effective for increasing the “stretch” as stretching itself. However, other forms of stretching besides static, such as PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) or eccentric, may actually help lengthen the muscle by breaking up adhesions – cross-linkages between the muscle fibers and within fascia – and should be reserved for post-workout or between workout routines.
Photo Credit to FitBit’s Blog
Foam rolling should also probably be relegated to post workout routines because it may also temporarily reduce the strength with which a muscle can contract which could be an issue with close to maximal output movements. Foam rolling tends to more forcefully and better break up adhesions than does static stretching. “Light” foam rolling could be useful as part of a warm-up for less explosive activities, and is helpful for moving blood and lymphatic fluid as part of either a warm-up or a post workout cool-down.
Percussive therapy, in general, is probably the best choice for quickly helping to reduce hypertonicity (tightness) and break-up minor adhesions most simply and easily, but also good for warm-up and cool-down to promote blood and lymphatic fluid flow. The machine involved is important to consider, though, since a “DMS 1500” (lower-amplitude, higher-velocity) device will deliver a different treatment than will a “Tim Tam” or a “Theragun” (both higher-amplitude, lower-velocity). If one has an area of hypertonicity in a muscle, these devices are generally preferred because they deliver what I like to refer to as “mini-chiropractic adjustments” in the form of multiple high-velocity, low-amplitude thrusts into the muscle affecting the golgi tendon reflex and reducing or alleviating the hypertonicity.