This week I want to present one of my favorite recovery/regen movements that has helped me and ALL my clients to relax and begin recovery immediately from the day's workout or stressful work day.
Enter.... the gut smash.
While this sounds like a terrible idea and painful, it really is just like the uncomfortable foam rolling sensation you get (just on your stomach). Before we break down what is going on- lets get a little background.
Why roll a ball around our stomach vs anywhere else on the body? This is one place that is relatively easy to access stimulating our vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the main branches of nerve fibers of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Like I've spoken about before, the PNS is mainly responsible for downregulating the body, aka- RELAXING you (rest and digest). This state allows you to build tissues in the body (hypertrophy), digest, have higher brain functioning (learning environment), etc., whereas the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) puts you on high alert and amps you up for whatever perceived or real threats there are on you at the moment (fight or flight).
Look at the picture below. Notice how many fibers the vagus nerve innervates (Cranial Nerve X) and how there are much larger sections you can actually get to vs the the other parasympathetic fibers (CNIII, CN VIII, CN IX). You can also get at it it your neck area- but applying pressure to massage near your jugular and other major vessels gets a little tricky.
Picture taken from Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of form and Function 7th ed.
Some great benefits of gut smashing include-
1) Relieve low back back stiffness by taking you out of extension patterns (think break the internet pose) and returns you to a more neutral position by promoting some flexion in the lumbar area.
2) Helps create 360* expansion while diaphragmatic breathing. With the ball or towel locking down the ribs and not allowing air into just the belly, you take that deep belly breath you are forced to expand your sides and low back- properly engaging your entire diaphragm vs partial breathing patterns.
3) Sick free While I am not an expert in this one, I do believe in some of the science and my own experience with this. This is a big one that many people rarely associate with the gut smash technique. A technique known as Lymphatic Pump Technique (LPT) has been gaining popularity in some medical circles, and basically it is massaging the lymphatic tissue to promote lymphatic drainage and "pushing" different lymphatic cells throughout the body.
Since the gut is taking in all outside substances (foreign bodies) it needs some of the best protection in the whole body to fight toxins, bugs, and bacteria it may be ingesting. When we stimulate the different immune system cells with the gut smash, we all some of the strongest Immune cells in the body to flood the lymphatic system and get pushed through the entire body.
Check out these articles https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437985/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025762/ for further reading on the subject.
After the end of your next workout- take a medball, towel, or other ball and repeat the technique demonstrated by Kelly in the video.
-What I like to do is to take a deep breathe and hold for about 3-6 seconds
-On the FULL EXHALE, let the ball drive deep into your abdomen (this is the not so fun part)
-Repeat anywhere from 3-10 times
-On the last breathe, begin rolling along the underside of your rib cage, which is where the diaphragm typically sits, for about 1-2 min
Also, check out Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up explaing the benefits as well (50 min-1:15 of the podcast).