Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is a form of flexibility training that uses your own body weight on a long, cylindrical roller to perform a self-massage. Foam rolling soothes tight muscles and aids in workout recovery while increasing blood flow and circulation. Overall, this leads to improved range of motion and encourages muscles to be elastic, healthy and function optimally.
So how does foam rolling work?
Underneath the skin, we are covered in soft connective tissue called fascia. Fascia connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body, like an entire system of webs. Sometimes this underlying muscle tissue can become stuck from overuse, disuse, muscle tightness or injuries. When muscle tissue gets stuck, adhesions form which results in diminished muscle movement, pain and soreness. Foam rolling combines sustained pressure with gentle traction of the fascia that breaks apart scar tissue and knots.
It is beneficial to roll both before and after a workout to improve the range of motion for muscles, work out any imbalances present in the body, recover faster and prevent the buildup of scar tissue.
Start rolling gently by applying moderate pressure to a specific muscle group with your body weight. Roll slowly and no more than once inch per second. When you locate an area that is tight or painful, hold the roller in place for 15 to 30 seconds. Remember to breathe and relax as much as possible. Gradually work your way up to two or three minutes on the most tender spots. If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller to the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area.
When rolling tight muscles, some degree of discomfort is likely to occur. It should be manageable but not unbearable. Listen to your body and roll with awareness to avoid injury.
There are many benefits to foam rolling:
- Injury Prevention: When people excessively exercise, muscles over-tighten and the possibility of injuries, inflammation and pain increases. When foam rolling is a consistent practice, muscles are massaged, fascia build-up is decreased and knots are prevented.
- Total Fitness: Being in shape is more than a lean body and cardio conditioning. Total fitness also includes the ability of the muscle to move through its full range of motion with ease. Flexibility training is key to lengthen tight muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Improved Circulation: When muscles are less tense, there is an efficient exchange of nutrients and waste products at a cellular level which speeds up workout recovery. Better circulation means improved performance because muscles are being supplied with efficient blood supply.
- Stress Reduction: Foam rolling is a great way to lessen the levels of stress in your body, especially after a long day of work. By giving yourself a massage, tension is released and muscles relax. When combined with deep breathing, it has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Foam rolling is an easy and cost-effective way to increase flexibility in the body. With all of the benefits, it should be a staple part of your daily workout routine. Give it a try to roll away stress, tension and those pesky muscle knots.