Foam rolling is a way to help loosen tight muscles using a foam roller. What is a foam roller? Well they are cylindrical, made of foam and come in a variety of colours and textures. They are used to release tightness of your muscles and this is know as Self-myofascial release. Foam rolling is becoming more common on the gym floor nowadays and is not exclusive to professionals and therapists anymore. When used for self-massage, they help soothe tight and sore areas known as trigger points which can help speed up muscle recovery.
How do I use the foam roller?
Foam rolling may look easy and like a bit of fun with no benefit. However if you are doing it correctly it will not be fun, may be painful but will add huge benefits to training, recovery and daily movement. After a brief warm up it is good to foam roll before your exercise session. Your first attempt at using a foam roller may feel a bit awkward but the technique becomes easier with a little practice. Use the foam roller on the ground to roll slowly and apply pressure directly to the area of tightness. Don’t roll around as fast as you can, while it may be painful the movement needs to be slow, controlled and focused on the area of tightness.
Where should I foam roll?
Search for painful areas and give those spots extra attention or areas you will be working on during that session. For every 2 inches you roll, roll backwards 1 inch, also, remember to breathe. Trigger points and tight muscles can be found through self-exploration, utilizing the list of techniques below and exploring each one. To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen. If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. You are trying to loosen muscles and feel better, not destroy the muscle and prove how much pain you can take. For issues with the neck and lower back you should seek help from a professional sports masseuse.
How long do I foam roll?
Foam roll for around 5-10 minutes spending about 1 minute on each of the major muscle groups. When you find a painful area give it a little more focus until tension is released. The most common areas to foam roll include the calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, lats, upper back, chest and shoulders. However, you can target any major muscle groups as long as you don’t roll over a joint or bone. For example, foam roll to just above your knee and just below your hip when working on your quads. Remember if an area is sore beforehand, chances are the tightness is in an opposing muscle group, foam roll the opposing muscle group to release tension.
Why does it hurt so much?!?
When you train your muscles they can become tight, this can also be the case if you stay in the same position for much of the day or have poor posture. Trigger points are specific “knots” that form in muscles and can be identified because they will refer pain. Pain referral can most easily be described as the pain felt when pressure is applied to one area of the body, but the pain is felt or radiated in another area. This means that a tight knot on the back of your shoulder will cause the pain to be felt in the front of your shoulder. While pain will be felt when trying to release the muscle, it should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable and when you are done it should feel better. Releasing these trigger points can help correct proper movement patterns and benefit your training. The deep compression of self-myofascial release allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue. The body naturally wants to be healthy and strong, but sometimes an extra boost is needed to achieve optimal muscle and tissue health. Now that you have had a go and hopefully feel better, try and make it a routine. You can even do foam rolling in between your sets throughout your session.