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“Why cause pain to get out of pain?” If you’ve struggled with the agonies of foam rolling or deep-tissue massage, you can probably relate to this statement by Sue Hitzmann. The former fitness instructor who hosted “Crunch TV” on ESPN has morphed into a guru who teaches people how to heal. Her program of DVDs, books and equipment you can use at home or in studios with certified teachers is called the Melt Method.
Her exercises might look similar to foam rolling, which often uses a harder roller to release the fascia that covers muscles. But her movements are much smaller and targeted with a soft roller to address what she calls “stuck stress,” which causes aches due to connective-tissue dehydration, compression, neurological imbalance and faulty body sense.
When your body is tired from a hard workout and everywhere hurts…
These two sequences provide some key upper- and lower-body compression to help your body feel better all over. Drink a glass of water in conjunction with these moves.
Tools You Need
Soft roller or towel
For most of the exercises, you’ll need a soft roller or rolled-up beach towels or a traditional, firm roller wrapped in a towel, blanket or yoga mat.
The Melt Method sells its own soft ball, but you can use a cushy dog ball or a Kadima or paddle ball.
For this method to rehydrate cells and connective tissue, you need to drink water. Hitzmann recommends sipping it consistently throughout the day.
Move One: Rib Length Assess
a) Rest your shoulder blades on the roller. Bring your arms in front of you and “punch” toward the ceiling.
b) If you are in the right place, you should feel your shoulder blades tap the top of the roller as you move your arms.
c) Place your hands behind your head for support and bend your knees. Press your feet into the floor, lift your hips and return your hips to the floor.
d) Breathe in, and then on the exhale, allow only your ribs to extend over the roller and open your breastbone toward the ceiling. Take a focused breath into your ribs and notice the length you are able to create. Breathe in, and then on the exhale, curl your ribs back to the starting position. Your spine will press into the roller. Repeat 2–3 times. Are you able to move your ribs without moving your low back or neck?
e) Do NOT go this far back. When you perform this correctly, the low back and neck curves will remain in the same position as you move your ribs.
f) From the extended position, breathe in, and then on the exhale, slowly side bend your ribs to the left to assess the right side. Inhale and notice if your ability to take a full breath is inhibited. Repeat on the other side. Repeat one more time on each side.
Move Two: Hip to Heel Press
a) Lie on the floor, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Lift up your hips and
b) position the roller under your pelvis, just below the low back.
c) Place your left foot on the floor so your knee is in line with your left hip.
d) Extend your right leg straight up.
e) Straighten your leg so it’s perpendicular to the floor, as close to 90 degrees as possible with a straight leg.
f) Even if you are very flexible, don’t extend your leg beyond a 90-degree angle—you will lose the ability to lengthen the connective tissue on the back of your leg.
Flex and point your ankle 2–3 times. If you sense a tugging in the back of your calf, that’s what it feels like when you stretch a muscle. Keep your ankle flexed, so your toes pull toward your shin and your heel extends toward the ceiling. Slowly sink the back of your pelvis into the top of the roller. Take a focused breath as you feel the pulling sensation from your heel all the way down to your hip. Make sure your ribs are still heavy to the floor. If your ribs lift when you press your pelvis on top of the roller, you are creating too much movement. Take 2 more focused breaths while maintaining a flexed foot and a slightly tilted pelvis. Repeat on the other side. Notice how the muscular stretch when you flex and point is in an isolated area and the connective tissue length is a long line of pull on the back of your leg.