"ART is freedom."
Victor Hugo said this and it definitely wasn't about what this post is talking about, but the irony in the words is great.
Active Release Therapy a.k.a "ART" is a soft tissue rehab method that focuses on relieving tissue tension via the removal of adhesions. This method is accomplished by having the athlete's body parts actually move through their ranges of motion with applied pressures in certain trigger points.
Seeing as how I have myself enjoyed the benefits of this modality of rehab as have some of my athletes, I figured why not sit down and interview a good friend of mine and "ART" conesueir Paul Clear (@Paulclearagram). It's one of many body work/massage methods out there and important to understand as an athlete--especially in our sport. Here's our conversation:
M: So what first off made you decide to use ART as the modality you work with lifters?
P: First and foremost, ART isn't my only modality, but it is THE modality in my opinion. I'm a big fan of the ol' Bruce Lee adage "absorb what is useful, discard what isn't, make it uniquely your own"... well, ART is the metaphorical meat & bread of the my therapeutic sammich with good reason. I also supplement with Graston, physical therapy strengthening to rebuild a base/neuromuscularly activate and occasionally fall back on some myofascial release.
The fact that most injuries revolve around tendinosis- tissue ischemia- rather than tendinitis makes it a no-brainer. The nerve entrapment, tendon, ligament and misc. soft tissue work is just a cherry on top.
M: Damn - so in English what do you feel ART does differently than just your normal massage at "massage house local" in someone's town? What makes it so crucial for lifters?
P: Correcting dysfunction involves rebalancing tissues... rebalancing tissues involves FEELING the problem. Every pass I perform on an injured athlete involves palpating and assessing tissue quality, identifying what isn't moving correctly, and that becomes a cohesive process when my client is moving--like how athletes move. Active Release is effective and aggressive and has spent decades on a proving ground of world class bodies relentlessly pushing and breaking down. It can still help grandma, but it's ideally paired with a treatment protocol based around minimizing forced rest days. Also, just for the record, I don't play around with oil, Enya and incense. I treat you in gym clothes, often to some gangster jams and heavy metal.
M: That is way more helpful on getting everyone to understand - so as an example to our audience - if I had a tight lower back from deadlifting the day before, what kind of treatment am I looking at ?
P: For acute soreness and "baby" strains, that can generally be knocked out in one 30ish min treatment before a training session. Of course, we'll be looking at pelvic stabilizers like glute med/min, piriformis, and big muscles like glute max, psoas, overactive quads and fun stuff like quadratus lumborum and erector spinae in the actual low back. I'm treating, I'm assessing, I'm deciding how much of a load these tissues can take. It's always a puzzle, but the body always gives me plenty of generous clues. Anyway, I treat prior to sessions because the muscles NEED re-education as soon after the treatment as possible, so that gives me an opportunity to include some neuromuscular work in the warm-up and to supplement with proper self-myofascial release (foam rolling) recommendations. But for the record, it's almost always a broken ass messing with the low back. Industry secret. Shhh.
M: Awesome information and as someone thats using this method myself I am really liking the education / re-education method it does for the body. So if you had to give one piece of advice for someone looking to use ART or have someone work on them using it do you have any tips?
P: Pardon my lack of brevity, but there's a few things to really focus on as a lifter interested in Active Release Technique: First, make sure you're seeing someone that's actually certified through ART and doesn't just say they "do ART," safety is always first priority... don't see a counterfeit practitioner. That said, also make sure your practitioner is excited to fix you and get you out of the clinic sooner than later. Their goal should be to get you back performing at a high level with the minimal amount of treatments to successfully get you back at it. Lastly, ART is amazing but it should be part of a self-care program that involves proper warm-up, activation, maintenance bodywork, nutrition, rest and posture. Weak links get exposed when you're an explosive strength athlete... don't sit like a slob and get your sleep in!
Thanks so much for reaching out Coach, it's been an absolute pleasure working with all the talented folks at 4 Star Strength!
Hope you all enjoyed this and learned something - take care of your bodies ya'll and watch your progress happen faster and reach those goals in no time!
If you'd like to check in with Paul Clear or pick his brain, you can reach him via direct message on Instagram at: @Paulclearagram
- Coach Matt