7 Reasons Why Every Athlete Should Do Clinical Somatics
If you haven’t heard of Clinical Somatics before, you’ve been missing out. These incredibly effective exercises retrain deeply learned, automatic muscular patterns and undo years of chronic muscle tightness and pain. The benefits of the exercises are so life-changing that every athlete needs to be doing them in order to improve their performance, prevent injuries, and extend their athletic career.
1. You’ll gain ultimate control of your muscles through their full range of motion.
We build up residual muscle tension over the years as a result of athletic training, repetitive daily habits, and stress. If we can’t completely release our muscles, that means we can’t use them through their entire range of motion—and our ability to execute movements fully and exert force is decreased. Clinical Somatics exercises use a movement technique called pandiculation that reduces the resting level of muscle tension being set by the gamma feedback loop. Because pandiculation lengthens muscles through learning rather than passive manipulation (like stretching or massage), the results are long-lasting.
By releasing chronically tight muscles, you also gain the ability to fully contract the opposing muscle group. For many years, my lower back muscles were so tight that I struggled to activate my abdominal muscles. Now that I’ve released my lower back with Clinical Somatics exercises, I can easily use my abs. Magic!
2. You’ll develop finely-tuned proprioception so that you can avoid injuries.
Proprioception is a fancy word that means “how you sense your body in space.” As we build up residual muscle tension and dysfunctional muscular patterns, it’s very common for our proprioception to get a little “off.” In other words, we’re not sensing our posture or movement accurately; we feel like our hips are even when actually one hip is higher than the other, or we feel like we’re standing straight when in fact we’re slouching forward.
Researchers at the Sports Injuries Research Centre in Limerick, Ireland performed a two-year study with soccer players and found that muscle strains and back, knee, and ankle injuries were all linked to dysfunctional postural habits involving inaccurate proprioception, like swayback, lumbar lordosis, kyphosis, scoliosis, and lower leg misalignment. Clinical Somatics exercises give you finely-tuned proprioception so that you can sense when your posture or movement is the slightest bit off and immediately make adjustments, avoiding pain and injuries.
3. You’ll be able to change inefficient or painful movement patterns.
When we repeat a movement pattern over and over—like we do in athletic training—our nervous system learns to make it automatic. When we’re first learning a new movement pattern, it’s mainly controlled by the prefrontal cortex of our brain—the area of the cerebral cortex that plans complex behavior, makes decisions, and focuses attention. As the movement pattern gradually becomes more automatic, the control of the pattern shifts through different areas of the brain, finally becoming a long-term motor memory when it consolidates to the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem. This is the process of developing muscle memory.
There are two key elements to changing a deeply learned muscular pattern. First, you must move extremely slowly and consciously, so that you’re creating new neural pathways instead of relying on well-traveled pathways (like we do when we want to move quickly or we’re under pressure). Clinical Somatics exercises retrain movement patterns so effectively because they are extremely slow and require 100% of your mental focus. The second element to retraining a learned muscular pattern is to reduce any chronic muscle tension that might be keeping you stuck in the existing pattern—and Clinical Somatics does this effectively and efficiently through the technique of pandiculation.
4. You’ll be able to release your tight muscles much more effectively than with stretching.
If you normally stretch or use a roller to release your muscles, you may have noticed that the results don’t last very long. That’s because these methods attempt to lengthen muscles manually by pulling on them—as if our muscles were just pieces of meat. Since our muscle tension is controlled by our nervous system, we have to actively retrain our nervous system if we want to reduce our resting level of muscle tension for more than a few hours.
When I finally stopped stretching and started using only Clinical Somatics exercises to release my muscles, the effects were incredible. I had never felt so loose and relaxed before! It was an entirely different sensation than I used to feel after stretching. I also stopped having that constant sense of tightness and needing to stretch that I used to feel throughout the day. And even though I stopped stretching, I didn’t lose any of my flexibility or range of motion.
You can read more about stretching and why it doesn’t work in this blog post.
5. You’ll recover from workouts faster.
I use Clinical Somatics exercises every day, either right after my workout or in the evening before bed, as a way to cool down and release my muscles. The next day, I’m ready for my next workout instead of feeling tired and sore from the day before. The exercises allow for a faster recovery process because they release residual muscle tension, allowing waste products produced during exercise to be flushed out of our muscles more efficiently. Looser muscles also allow for better blood circulation, facilitating the healing process and reducing post-workout soreness—very important to folks who are trying to increase muscle strength.
6. You’ll reduce your stress level and perform better under pressure.
EMG studies show that people with higher stress levels have more muscle tension. Stress in the mind and body are inextricably linked—by reducing our muscle tension, we immediately reduce our mental stress. Clinical Somatics exercises also reduce our reactivity to stressful triggers by retraining our habitual muscular reactions to stress. When our mind and body are calm and our automatic reactions to stress aren’t getting in the way, we’re much better able to perform under pressure.
7. You’ll extend your athletic career.
Many athletic careers are cut short because of injuries and general wear-and-tear. Imagine being able to avoid that damage to your body—that’s the power that Clinical Somatics exercises give you. By gaining control of your muscles through 100% of their range of motion, keeping your muscles and joints loose and moving freely, and giving you a finely-tuned sense of your posture and movement, Clinical Somatics can extend your athletic career substantially. I never expected to feel better in my body at 40 than I did at 20, but I do—and it’s all because of Clinical Somatics.