What Is Muscle Flossing?

John demonstrating muscle flossing

Tack and floss, more commonly known as muscle flossing, is a type of active release technique (ART).  Much like the name implies, the action requires you to actively move through a range of motion in order to help release tension in the connective tissues.  In this form of ART you compress the fibers of the muscle you’re working on white dynamically stretching the same muscle!  If this all sounds a little confusing, don’t worry.  We are going over what exactly muscle flossing does, who should do it, and how to muscle floss.  Plus Dr. John specifically demonstrates how on the hamstring!

What Does Muscle Flossing Do?

As mentioned above, muscle flossing compresses and actively moves through a range of motion.  The compression offers a type of blood flow restriction which helps to reduce inflammation and promote healing to the area.  The flossing aspect helps break up knots and adhesions in the connective tissue.  This is the only technique you can do by yourself that gives you this kind of relief.  That’s right!  You won’t get the same benefits anywhere else.  If you consider foam rolling, you’re getting the compression benefits.  If you think about dynamic stretching, you’re elongating the muscle.  This technique incorporates both aspects at the same time.

Best Use Cases

We use this technique most often with overuse injuries.  An overuse injury commonly happens when you do repetitive movements over and over again either from sport or every day life.  These types of injuries often happen with runners, or sports that require lots of repetition.  A good example would be a pitcher and their throwing arm. 

If you’re not injured but looking for that extra edge to improve your ROM, muscle flossing is a great option.  You can incorporate this into your regular routine by doing this before your usual warm up.  An example would be if you’re running, you’d tack and floss the area you want to improve, then you’d continue to your regular warm ups, followed by your sprints or running workout!

john wrapping the muscle flossing band

When Not to Muscle Floss

Don’t use this technique if you think you may be dealing with an active tear.  How would you know that?  Try answering these questions:

1 – Did this injury happen in the last week?

2 – Do I have substantial bruising in the area?

3 – After I muscle floss does it feel worse and continue to get worse?

If you answered YES to any of the above 3 questions you probably are dealing with an active tear.  Before moving forward any further make sure you talk to a trusted professional to make sure you don’t incur further injury!

How To Do Active Release Technique On Yourself:

Muscle flossing is pretty simple once you understand the principles!  You really just need a flossing band.  They can come in 2 or 4 inch widths.  We usually stick with RockFloss’s 2inch width band because it’s easy to use and is good for almost everyone. 

Identify the area you want to work on. This technique works really well on biceps, calves, hamstrings, and more!  Once you know where you want to work, start wrapping at the base of the muscle and work your way up.  You don’t want to start in the middle of your muscle.  If you’ve used normatec compression therapy, the compression principle is the same!  It moves up in compartments restricting the blood flow and flushing out the muscle systematically. 

For more information on how that works read here!

That’s a Wrap

To start, you want your first layer not pulled too tight.  This initial layer provides a foundational piece so the band can start to grip on itself.  Now that you have your first layer wrapped you can begin pulling with 50-75% tension through the band.  When you’re wrapping it’s important to keep each piece overlapping the previous one.  Once you’re to the end of the band tuck the end into the previously wrapped band so you can see the tab coming out the other side.

john demonstrating muscle flossing his hamstring

Now that the compression aspect has been applied, it’s time to floss.  Remember, flossing means moving through ranges of motion while the compression band is on.  You can do this seated, laying down, or standing.  It all depends where you are with your flexibility of the muscle.  Don’t overdo it!  If a stretch is difficult for you without the band on, don’t anticipate it to be easier now!  Once you’ve completed 60-90 seconds or 10-15 reps of dynamic movement take off the band to release the compression.  You should feel a rush of warmth as the blood comes rushing back into the area.  You want to keep working through the entire muscle. 

Best Practicies:

  • It might be a weird feeling at first to have this tourniquet esque band on your leg.  Don’t lose good form while you’re doing the dynamic movement! You want to get the most from your stretch
  • Make sure you roll up the band between wraps!  It’s really hard to get good tension and placement when the band is all over the place.
  • Don’t just wrap 1 spot!  This can take time, but you don’t want to try to cover too much area at 1 time.  We try not to cover much more than 4-6 inches at a time.  Take your time and don’t spread the band too thin.  If it takes 4 times to cover the whole leg or arm, it takes 4 times!
  • Make sure it’s tight.  You’re going to want this tighter than you think.  Get that 50% tension!
  • Use a timer.  To make sure you have it on as long as you should, try using a timer.  Set it for 60-90 seconds and continue dynamically moving through your ROM

Watch Dr. John in this muscle flossing how to video!

Whether you’re recovering from an injury or you’re working on improving your range of motion, muscle flossing can be a great tool for you to use!  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out!  Remember move often, but most of all we want you to move well! 

Want Your Own Band?

We carry many RockTape products including muscle flossing bands, stretching straps, and of course, rock tape!  If you’re ready to start muscle flossing, pick yours up during your next appointment.  To make sure you’re doing it right, ask us to help you wrap it for your first time!

muscle flossing around the knee

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