Percussive Therapy for Runners
Running is simply a type of motion activity that involves the transporting of a body through the rapid motion of its legs, contacting the ground after both feet at intervals are rapidly spring off the ground.
Running engages the lower body parts the most especially the thigh muscles (the quadriceps, and the hamstrings) and the leg muscles (the knee calves). In this way, running is quite different from walking.
Running engages a lot of muscles especially the lower body muscles, starting from the core muscles (i.e. the abdominal muscles, the lower back muscles, the pelvic muscles, and the hip muscles), hip flexor muscles, the glutes/gluteal muscles (muscles at the buttocks), quadriceps (muscles at the front of the thighs), hamstrings (muscles at the back of the thigh directly opposite to the quadriceps), the calf muscles, and then the foot muscles. All these lower-body muscles are in harmony with some upper body muscles (the arm muscles, i.e., biceps and triceps, the pectoral muscles, and the lower back muscles).
These muscles however get stressed over time and eventually get injured as a result of ignorance, accumulated muscle stress and fatigue, improper warm-up exercises lack of post-training exercises, lack of adequate rest, and overtraining. Having a percussive massager (a massage gun) goes a long way to prevent so many muscle injuries especially for runners and also gives them more hours to practice and improve.
Which Muscles are Engaged while Running, and How is a Massage Gun Beneficial to these Muscles?
- Core Muscles: The core is the foundation upon which all other muscles are engaged in running functions. A strong core will result in an adequate and proportionate working of every other muscle. If/when the core muscles are stressed and under-performing, the other major muscles like the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles have to make up for it, hence adding more workload on these muscles. So, there is a great need to keep the core muscles in check, maintaining a healthy state. That is why using a massage gun cannot be over-emphasized.
Benefit: A massage gun helps to release the abdominal tightness and to reduce the pain usually felt in the lower back. Be careful to target the muscles around the abdomen down to the hips (avoid gliding over the ribs, or any other bone).
- The Hip Flexors: The iliopsoas, a major part of the five hip flexor muscles is a very important muscle as it helps in stabilizing the runner during running and also grants the runner a balanced posture. When the hip flexor muscles contract, they help to lift the legs, hence performing a vital function in propelling runners. The iliopsoas, a major hip flexor muscle has been observed and noted for their propensity to become weak and strained. Hence, this serves as a setback for runners while walking and running.
Benefit: The massage gun not only helps to relax and speed up the recovery process of the flexor muscles but also increases the muscle's resilience and resistance to the reoccurrence of the injury. The tightness of the hip flexor muscles can result in posture imbalance, which takes its toll on the glute, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips.
The Massage gun also helps to get rid of this tightness by applying it on your lower back muscles down to your thighs. The massage gun removes toxic debris accumulating around the hip area and straightens the muscle fibers and so, eliminating the symptoms of muscle tightness.
- The Glutes: These muscles are also called the "gluteal muscle". They are muscles located in the buttocks. Their functions although easily overlooked are vital especially for the proper functioning of the hip flexor muscles and other muscles engaged in running.
Benefit: Applying a massage to the buttocks (the gluteal muscles) not only gets rid of the pain but also improves the flow of blood and lymph to that area which automatically increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the glutes.
- The Quadriceps: These muscles have been thought to be the strongest muscle of the human body. It is located in the front of the thighs, performing the function of extending the knee and propels the runner forward. The quadriceps are responsible for straightening and stabilizing your knees as you run. They are indispensable as you walk and run.
Benefits: The massage gun help to improve the rate of blood flow in the quadriceps by helping to push pooled blood in the varicose vein often around the thighs and legs back to the heart for oxygenation.
- Hamstrings: Hamstrings are the muscles found in the back of the thighs. They attach the back of the knee/leg to the hip bone (the ischium). These muscles (hamstrings) are three in number namely: The semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris which receives the majority of the force applied while engaging in an athletic activity. That's why pulling a hamstring is a reoccurring health challenge especially for sports that involve running.
Benefits: The body muscles tighten up after several workouts and exercise activities. Ideally, they stiffen and become strong and inflexible as they are engaged and put to work. This restricts the freedom and range of motion of that part of the body. The massage gun when applied to that part of the body pounds the muscle fibers into liberation, getting rid of many forms of muscle tightness and restrictions. Massage gun also helps to release natural body lubricants, fluids that can grease the joints, thereby reducing wear and tear by friction
- The Calf Muscles: These muscles are responsible for the extending and bending action of the foot while running. They also act as a cushion effect for the forceful impacts the leg encounters while jumping and running. They also help to exercise flexibility at the ankle thereby assisting the foot muscles in giving springy or elastic propulsion to the runner.
Benefits: Applying the massage gun over the calf muscles straightens the muscle fibers, relieving you of every residual pain as a result of DOMS. By running the machine over the calf muscle, the muscle becomes awakened which is important in pre-workouts.
How to Use a Massage Gun for Runners
- The first step for runners is to insert the ball attachment to the head. You can use a big round head, or a prong head, as desired.
- Make sure the massage gun is not resting on your hamstrings before switching it on as it could as little as a mild shock or as much as a sharp pain.
- Allow the massage gun to gently rest and glide over your quadriceps at a uniform speed. this wakes up the muscles or better still activates them.
- Allow the massage gun to thump your hip extension repeatedly. Slightly curl your legs and repeat this message.
- Now, to achieve a lasting and relaxing result on the muses, glide the massage gun at a slower pace over the whole length of the hamstrings as this helps to loosen the muscles into a more relaxed state.
To achieve a better result, which thumping your quads or hamstrings (which are both vital to running) you can switch to the bullet attachment, bullet heads are structured for this purpose – breaking of muscle knots and/or scar tissue.
However, you have to be very careful not to add unnecessary pressure as the shape of the attachment does the work already. Again, that is what bullet heads are made for, percussive diversity at it’s best!