Ready to (Foam) Roll
Almost every gym in America now has foam rollers, but not everyone knows what they’re used for or how to use them. We’ll briefly discuss the benefits of foam rolling, how to foam roll, and when to foam roll.
Benefits of foam rolling
Foam rolling is a method of myofascial release which is a form of soft tissue therapy. It is similar to deep tissue massage, but generally not as deep (and not as painful).
To understand the benefits of foam rolling, it helps to think of your muscles like rubber bands (in fact, they have many similar properties). If you tie a knot in the middle of the rubber band it can’t stretch as far as if the knot weren’t there. Adhesions, scar tissue, and tightness caused by trauma, inactivity, and even stress act as “knots” on your muscles; they prevent the muscle from elongating fully and/or properly and they can also cause pain. Foam rolling breaks up these “knots” and stimulates blood flow allowing the muscle to properly elongate. This provides many benefits including:
- Injury prevention
- Improved performance in the gym or in competition
- Improved range of motion
- Decreased pain
- Stress and tension relief
How to foam roll
Foam rolling is pretty simple. You place the foam roller on the floor and then sit, lie, or situate yourself in some form on top of the roller so that you can apply pressure to a small area on your body – generally a muscle. You then roll back and forth over that area in small strokes – about 2-4 inches – for a few seconds, working your way up or down the muscle. If an area is particularly painful, you’ll want to spend a little more time foam rolling that area. As you progress, you can move to firmer foam rollers and/or implements that target a smaller area (like a tennis ball or baseball). Other effective myofascial release devices include The Stick and the Thera Cane.
When to foam roll
Foam rolling can be performed during the warm up period before a workout to prepare the body for training. It can also be performed on off days, especially as part of a recovery session along with low intensity cardio, body weight exercises, mobility drills, and static stretching.
The next time you’re in the gym, grab a foam roller and give it a try. It’s gonna hurt a bit at first, but the benefits are well worth the effort.