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Is Muscle Flossing a Real Thing?

  • 5 min read


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

If you are searching for a new way to increase your flexibility and decrease pain after an intense workout session, then muscle flossing can be the technique you are looking for.

Muscle flossing, which is also known as voodoo flossing, is a compression technique that involves wrapping a muscle group or joint tightly with the help of a resistance band while stretching or doing certain movements.

While it is popular mostly in the CrossFit and bodybuilding industry, it has started to gain popularity among athletes as well for faster recovery of muscles and joints.

In this article, we will dive deeper and learn more about muscle flossing and its benefits.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program, making changes to your nutrition plan, or adding any new supplements to your current regimen.

What is Muscle Flossing?

Muscle flossing involves using a latex band to compress soft tissue, helping in mobilization. This technique can be applied actively or passively, with the band wrapped around a joint or muscle group similar to a bandage.

By compressing the muscles, blood flow to the area is restricted, and upon removal of the band, blood rushes back, delivering oxygen and nutrients.

Muscle flossing is often done before or after workouts, focusing on areas like quadriceps, hamstrings, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and knees.

What is the Science Behind Muscle Flossing?

Muscle flossing is an evolving area of study. The benefits it offers are thought to stem from two main factors: myofascial release and blood flow restriction.

1.     Myofascial release

Myofascial release involves applying pressure to muscles to loosen tangled fibers. This can be done through various methods like foam rolling, using a lacrosse ball, or receiving a deep tissue massage.

During exercise, muscle fibers can tear and repair themselves, sometimes forming irregular patterns known as knots. While knots may resolve on their own, manual intervention is often needed to break them apart.

Some believe that muscle flossing with elastic bands provides the necessary pressure to address these knots, similar to foam rolling.

2.     Blood-flow restriction training

Blood flow restriction training (BFR) involves intentionally limiting blood flow during exercise.

Initially utilized by physical therapists for recovery, it’s now adopted by athletes to enhance strength gains.

During BFR, you perform strength exercises while applying pressure to specific muscle groups, often by tightly wrapping them with elastic bands. Upon releasing the compression, blood rushes to the area, improving circulation, promoting muscle growth, and potentially delaying muscle soreness.

Benefits of Muscle Flossing

Below are some of the most notable benefits of muscle flossing:

1.     It can treat Achilles tendinopathy

If you’re not familiar with Achilles tendinopathy, count yourself fortunate because it’s quite harsh.

In basic terms, Achilles tendinopathy is when Achilles tendonitis doesn’t get better with treatment. The main sign of this injury from overuse is pain — pain that doesn’t ease with massage, rest, stretching, ice, or other treatments.

According to a study, using muscle flossing (applied to the ankle) alongside a lacrosse ball massage almost completely got rid of Achilles pain. Moreover, muscle flossing improved dorsiflexion, which is the foot and ankle joint’s range of motion.

2.     Better mobility

Muscle flossing involves mobilizing and manipulating soft tissues to achieve myofascial release.

By applying pressure during compression it breaks down muscles and adhesions during movement, leading to enhanced muscle mobility and expanded range of motion.

3.     It gives you that extra push

For explosive movements like broad jumps, tuck jumps, and box jumps, muscle flossing can be beneficial.

In a study, ankle flossing before and after workouts was found to enhance single-leg jump performance among recreational athletes.

Another study indicated that flossing could potentially enhance both jump and sprint performance.

Both studies concluded that flossing might aid in injury prevention and overall athletic improvement.

4.     Better recovery

Once the floss is removed, another benefit of muscle flossing becomes evident. While the floss is in place, it restricts blood flow to the area; however, upon removal, blood flow swiftly returns to the joint and muscle, inundating it with the essential nutrients and oxygen needed for recovery.

Although the initial restriction of blood flow may seem counterintuitive, the idea is that after flossing, removing it ultimately creates an environment with more recovery agents than if flossing hadn’t been used at all.

How to Do Muscle Flossing Safely?

Here are some beginner tips for muscle flossing:

  • Identify a mobility limitation, like ankle dorsiflexion or hip rotation.
  • Wrap the muscle at 50% tension, with a 50% overlap.
  • Move into the restricted range of motion about 20 times or for 60 seconds.
  • Avoid wrapping too tightly or for too long to prevent circulation issues.
  • Incorporate flossing into your warm-up routine.
  • Focus on one body part at a time and avoid adding resistance for beginners.