Everyone knows what your muscles are right? Those big, or little, defined, or not so defined, parts of your body that move your bones around. Normally, that’s enough information. But if you are trying to deepen your training, your practice, or just have a better connection with your own body – you need to know how they work and why, so you can recognize potential injuries WAY before they happen and break down limitations. How many times have you been set back because of injury, or soreness? Knowing your body prevents this… and being in tune with your body cannot happen until you know how your body works.
So let’s start with the basics. What are muscles made of? The simple answer is fibers, almost like hairs, make up the belly of the muscle. At both ends of the muscle, all those fibers come together and form dense connective tissue called tendons, which holds your muscle to your bone… pretty important job.
As for movement, those muscle fibers contract and relax to create movement in your body. This contract and relax pattern moves your bones underneath via the tendons, and actions are formed. Of course this is the simplified version, but for now, let’s just establish this idea.
Applying this knowledge can so useful when it comes to your training, your practice, or even just your life. Once you can recognize tight, shortened muscle tissue (bound up fibers), that is not acting at it’s best, you can correct the problem and prevent major damage.
Here’s an example – your hip is hurting a little, right in the front. It especially hurts when you try to low lunge or are in the back of your stride as you run. Maybe you can’t get as deep in this posture as usual, or reach your stride as long as you are used too. This is an indication of a tight hip flexor. Knowing that muscle is tight, and that those little fibers are probably starting to stick together more than we want them too, is a red flag that you need to stretch that little hip flexor out and probably hit it with the foam roller. By catching it early, you are preventing those fibers from getting extremely bound up, and then stretching them too far during action, until they tear – which is a major injury and could have you down for a while.
Of course knowing what muscle does what action helps to narrow down what exactly is tight, but for now – I invite you to bring some awareness to areas in your body where you are feeling a little tight, have a little less range of motion, or feel a little pain. Feel that muscle tissue and see what it feels like. Is the muscle belly kind of squishy, or is tight and knotted up. Get used to feeling the difference and you are well on your way to improving your relationship with your musculature and unlocking new potential for your own body.