What Is your Muscle's Heart Rate?

By Sparta Science

April 5, 2011

We always poll our athletes,” How can we prepare you better for the start of the season?” The most common response from our pro baseball players is, “have me stand for 8 hours a day.” Funny, but it’s true that in all land based sports, significant pain can build up from consecutive bouts of standing. One of the ways to reduce this pain, other than moving and not just standing, is to reduce your resting muscle tone.

Alfonse Masi, Professor at the Illinois College of Medicine describes “human resting muscle tone as the tension of skeletal muscle from its intrinsic molecular viscoelastic properties.” We do not need to go too deep into these scientific terms, but “viscoelastic properties” is a physics term to describe a low level resistance to stretch. This tissue property plays a large role in posture, ideally using the least amount of energy to keep the body stabilized at rest. Such efficiency is at the heart of human movement, whether it is jumping or sprinting, so why wouldn’t this optimal setting exist for standing as well?

One of the best ways we have found to keep this resting muscle tone low is to reduce trigger points (see Sparta Point 1/19/11). Putting oscillating pressure on those taut bands can reduce muscle stiffness. We use a variety of tools, mostly PVC pipes, lacrosse balls, and golf balls, to target specific areas depending on the muscle size and bone structure that allows access. Spending 10 passes over each trigger point area would be enough before moving onto the next muscle. Perhaps the tightest muscle from standing is the calf area, specifically the soleus muscle, which lies directly above the Achilles tendon but below the bigger calf muscle, the gastrocnemius.

So as I walked into the homes of pro baseball players during Spring Training, they each had 3 things by their door, a PVC pipe, lacrosse ball, and a golf ball. They taught me that better than rolling out each area for 10 passes once a day, would be to do it 3 x times a day for just 5-10 minutes. This option of frequency over duration keeps your resting muscle tone consistently lower.

So get after those trigger points to keep your tone lower, expending less energy even while you stand, and like everything, frequency trumps duration.

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