Ever wondered about the benefits of foam rolling? Curious how to use a foam roller and why you should?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles… essentially a self-massage to relieve muscle tension and release trigger points. It is a great tool for injury prevention and aides in increasing range of motion. While there is not a hard-and-fast rule on when, how often, or how long to roll, foam rolling techniques are used before and after a workout, are completely customizable to each and every athlete’s specific needs, and are wonderfully beneficial for overall muscle maintenance.
Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout can help muscles recover from strenuous exercise. You can use it to loosen up tight hip flexors, IT bands, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, upper and lower back, and even your chest. It’s a full body, multi-function mobility tool that everyone should take advantage of. The best part is, it only takes a few minutes concentrated on each area, meaning you could essentially roll out your entire body in about 20 short minutes!
While it should not be used as a replacement for proper stretching, warming up or cooling down, it can be used as a tool to limit muscle soreness and tightness by increasing blood flow and flexibility.
By applying pressure in isolated areas, the foam roller will aide to release “trigger points” (otherwise known as knots) and correct muscle tension. The foam roller can assist in preparing your muscles for a vigorous workout by loosening them up to a prepared and functional elasticity and it can also be an excellent post-workout activity to return your body to a relaxed normal state.
You can also use foam rolling at any time for “muscle maintenance”, even on non-workout days, to maintain mobility and to keep your muscles from getting tight and forming those undesired knots or “trigger points” or to relieve already formed knots in your muscle groups simply gained from our day to day activities such as driving, slouching, sitting at a desk, hunching over a computer, cooking, cleaning, mowing,… living life in general.
So now to answer your question on “How” to use a foam roller. Best put by Jeff Kuhland, “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 the 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. The goal is to restore healthy muscles - it is not a pain tolerance test.”
There are plenty of rollers at both of our gym locations or you can pick one up at most any sporting goods store for anywhere between $15-40. There are several options depending on your preference of intensity. There’s the High-Density roller (like the black rollers in our inventory); these are compact rollers designed to maintain their shape. You can also use a PVC roller for a deeper tissue penetration and another option is The Grid. The Grid is a foam grid system for targeted release foam rolling.
In short, the foam roller can be a powerful and therapeutic tool for promoting and maintaining optimal physical health.
Give it a try! If you need some tips or demonstration, check out the attached pictorial and always feel free to just ask any of the excellent Woodward coaches. We are happy to assist… That’s the way we roll!