4/11/14

MASH

You never think about it when you feel good. It’s just a thought in the back of your head that gets pushed aside. You know it’s there, and you know it needs attention. But right now you have more important things to do. Like watch TV and spoon ice-cream from the bucket.

It’s the middle child of fitness.

It’s that pet hermit crab that you forgot to feed as a kid.

It’s like flossing; everyone knows they should do it, but hardly anyone does.


I’m talking about mashing. If you’re one of the 49.6% of Americans who exercise regularly, you might need some help fixing your muscles. If you’re one of the even fewer Americans who exercise at a high intensity, you definitely need help fixing your muscles.

But why?

To answer this question I have to pull out my old copy of, “Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries” out and skim some pages. When a severe enough stress is placed on tissue, for example a high intensity squat, there will be micro trauma. If the stress is high enough the body will begin a protective measure. Have you ever gotten a really bad cut on your skin, and a scar healed over? Notice how the once smooth skin is raised and out of place. The same thing can happen to our muscles. A tissue called collagen type III is randomly laid down in a webbed fashion to prevent further injury.

This sounds fine and dandy until we look at it from a function and performance viewpoint. Imagine that you have a rubber band. Inside the rubber of the band is a piece of wood perfectly engrained. Now imagine that you’re trying to stretch the rubber band as far as you can. The elasticity, stretch, of the band is limited by the piece of wood. That piece of wood is collagen type III (scar tissue), and the rubber band is your muscle. If we can get rid of that piece of wood, then we can improve the rubber band!

When scar tissue is laid down we have generally three choices.

1. Apply the techniques of physical therapists and help the collagen run parallel with the muscles.

2. Use mashing to “break-down,” align, and reduce the scar tissue in the muscle belly.

3. Do absolutely nothing and live our lives as professional house cats.

Mashing doesn’t come in the form of colorful tights and flashy capes; it comes dressed as a medieval executioner. I’ve seen mashing make people cry; I’ve even heard them curse being born. Yet in the end they always say the same thing. “I needed that.”

What makes mashing so bad? It's the same thing that makes bruises tender and mosquito bites itch; Inflammation. Not only will scar tissue cause immobilization of muscle tissue, but the surrounding inflammation will compound the damage. By this point any exercising adult should be asking the question, “How do I mash?”

Mashing is a simple, rudimentary, and somewhat barbaric practice. You only need a couple of things: you, a muscle, and something hard to roll on. To start you should take a regularly exercised muscle; for example your hamstrings. Try and see if you have a sensitive area along the belly of the muscle. If you can’t find one, simply begin rolling your hamstring over the hard object. Remember that, in this instance, pain is a good indicator. Really apply pressure to any tender spots. 

It takes 90 seconds of direct pressure for a muscle to release, and it takes 120 seconds for tissue to change shape/direction. In other words, you should spend between 90 and 120 seconds minimum per sensitive area. Mashing is literally its own workout.

As barbaric as mashing might be, there is an order to the madness. In fact, there are three orders: rolling, wobbling, and circles.

Rolling is placing the muscle on top of the object, and moving up and down over the scar tissue.

Wobbling is placing the scar tissue over the object and moving left and right (laterally).

Circles is when we “draw” circles with the scar tissue on top of the object. Not literal circles, because the tender spot never leaves contact with the object. In actuality, we’re just moving our body around a specific point.

Speaking of the “hard object” there are thousands of things you can use. Like softballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, PVC pipes, and anything that can handle the pressure without breaking your skin.

I for one use a Grid Roller.

But you don’t have to spend money to mash.

You can heed my warnings and instructions, or you can treat me like an Old Testament prophet; ignored until the damage is already done. This is a golden opportunity to give that poor and neglected part of your workout regimen some much needed attention.


Or at least start flossing your teeth. That stuff’s important.  

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.