Foam rolling has become one of the most popular activities among athletes and everyone who work out as a way to better prepare for upcoming physical activity, improve performance, increase mobility and a range of motions, as well as speed recovery from injuries.
Foam rolling is a type of massage, where instead of human touch, a foam roller is used. In this article, I’ll explain why should we use, and how to use a foam roller.
Glance At Anatomy
All the muscles in our body are connected with fascia which surrounds the tissue, nerves, organs and all other structures in our body. But fascia can become unhealthy by overuse, injury or even by every day repetitive movement.
Foam roller serves to keep fascia healthy, by circulating fresh, oxygenated blood through it.
The healthier the fascia is, the better your moves are and will be.
Benefits Of Using A Foam Roller
I can’t say enough good things about the benefits of regularly using a foam roller. It’s like your own (and portable) masseuse, and it’s much less expensive too. Foam roller is a perfect tool for easing muscle tension and inflammation, and can improve your flexibility and range of motion.
Foam roller can help to:
- increase flexibility
- enhance performance
- increase range of motion
- diminish aches and pains
- accelerate recovery
While foam rolling, muscles and fascia get compressed, and those compress and release movements lead to improved circulation, releasing tension, faster recovery, improved sports performance and pain relief.
How To Use It
- Simply taking the time to address one area (e.g. calf, hamstring, one side of your lower back…) will improve your movement;
- When selecting a muscle to roll, for example, calf, start with simple rolling on one leg. Keep your balance on your hands and your other leg. Placing your other leg on it will increase compression. Don’t forget the sides, both external and internal. Just move your body a bit to one side, roll on the external side, make a few passes and then move to the other side and roll that calf on the inner side. After that, keep that pressure and do some ankle rotations, reversing sides. This is a great way to release the tension in that calf. Then switch legs and repeat.
Three general techniques are:
- Rolling – roll back and forth the muscle you chose to work. Always start from the ground up. Start with rolling your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, then your back. You can also work on additional spots or specific problem area.
- Breathe deeply – pay attention to breathing! The key to rolling is to breathe deeply and slowly. This will remind you to move slowly and to relax a muscle you roll. Remember that consistency is better than intensity. Rolling out is recommended three to five times a week, preferably before and after activity. Rolling regularly is the best. Don’t roll just when you ache.
- Spans – when you hit a tender area wave. Wave side to side until you feel relief.
- Stretching – compress the spot while stretching the muscle to full range of motion (e.g place a roller under your back below your shoulders, turn to the side and move your arm, extend it all the way). This pin and stretch motion will increase the circulation and mobility.
How many passes to make?
There is no right or wrong number. Make as many passes as you need to relax a muscle. Start with five, eight even ten or more, if you need it. Note: there is a tendency to tighten a muscle as you compress it. Give yourself a few seconds, focus on relaxing a muscle and don’t forget to breathe, slowly and deeply. Why? As said above, to increase circulation and keep muscles and fascia healthy by circulating fresh, oxygenated blood through it.
And remember to roll your soft tissue, not your bones or joints. Move up and down (rolling).
Do Not Be Worried If You Feel Some Initial Discomfort
People that are new to rolling may discover some initial discomfort. This is similar to the pain that, at moments, occurs during a massage. Most of us have experienced some soreness when pressure is put on tender muscles and tensed areas. You can think of foam rolling the same way. When you compress sensory receptors you can feel uncomfortable. But this is nothing to be worried about, it’s completely normal and with a little practice, the process becomes enjoyable.
When you hit a sore spot, roll around it at first. Foam rolling is not causing the pain, but removing the pain.
But if you had an injury before or during a workout, such as a sprain, have swelling, redness and sharp pain, please call your doctor or call someone to help you to go to the hospital.
Give Yourself A Massage
Foam rolling is a type of self-massage that allows you to alleviate tightness or trigger points – a focused spot of tight muscle, also known as muscle knots, by using this piece of equipment.
Foam rolling can be performed before and after your workouts. Before exercise, rolling will increase tissue elasticity, range of motion and circulation (blood flow). This can help you move better during your workout and protect you from injury.
Foam rolling post-workout is a great way to enhance recovery. Focus on all the major muscles you just worked, with an extra emphasis on the areas that feel problematic. By stimulating blood flow in affected areas, you’ll dramatically increase oxygen to your sore muscle fibres and reduce recovery time. In fact, most elite athletes get massages regularly for this reason. You can enjoy many of the same benefits at home with a foam roller.
Not only that using a foam roller is beneficial before and after a workout, but you can use it whenever you feel tensed and want to relax.