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What’s the Deal with Foam Rolling?
Not sure how to use your foam roller? You might be missing out on happier, healthier muscles. Let’s change that.
Self-myofascial release, otherwise known as foam rolling, is popular with athletes of all levels. It has lots of exciting benefits and can be done practically anywhere. To help you understand all things foam rolling and myofascial release, we’ve created a simple guide. Get in touch with our team if you have any more questions. Our coaches are foam roller experts!
What Is Foam Rolling?
Self-myofascial release is a technical term for a (self-administered) massage designed to release tension or trigger points in the muscles. A foam roller is a popular way to achieve this, but it is not the only way! SMR can be performed with a lacrosse ball, specialized “canes,” human hands, a glass bottle, or a rolling pin. SMR massages are often utilized after physical activity, but they needn’t be limited to that. They’re also excellent warm-ups!
What Does Foam Rolling Do?
What’s one of the best things about foam rolling? It can do a lot more than just one thing!
It Can Cool You Down…
Foam rolling is a beloved cool-down activity—and it’s easy to see why. A recent study has even shown that using this technique after a strenuous workout can actually alleviate discomfort associated with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). That can help athletes enhance future training days. By avoiding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, a successful performance is possible in your next session.
Or It Can Warm You Up…
Self-myofascial release works really well as a warm-up—and that all comes down to blood flow.
Let’s say today is leg day. In that case, your foam roll workout would ideally focus on calves, hamstrings, and quads. By prioritizing these muscles and giving them lots of love with the foam roller, you’ll promote increased blood flow to the area. That makes your workout smoother and helps your muscles to be more receptive to your chosen workout.
…And It Impacts Your Workout!
Tight muscles are never fun. Whatever causes them, they can range from uncomfortable to downright painful or even dangerous. Your foam roller provides a swift and easy solution to that problem. It allows for more flexibility in the body, a larger range of movement, and a decreased chance of muscular damage during physical activity.
How Does Foam Rolling Work?
SMR works by applying a certain amount of pressure to targeted, tense muscle areas and massaging them into a healthier state. Ideally, this brings your muscles to a standard functioning level: elastic and loose enough that they won’t get damaged during a post-workout walk or cycling session. This also provides physical relief from painfully tight muscles.
First time with a foam roller? We definitely recommend working with an experienced fitness coach to ensure that your form, pace, and workout choices are the best for your unique needs. It’s also important to keep the following tips in mind:
Pinpoint Your Tense Spots
What are the tightest spots on your body? Typically, they tend to be your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and areas along your back, such as the thoracic spine. These muscles need the most love, so be sure to give them enough attention when foam rolling.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Your muscles won’t relax until you do. Allow yourself to focus on taking big, slow breaths and keeping your mind and body as calm as possible. Ahhh. That’s better.
Take Your Time
A thirty-second rubdown with your foam roller won’t accomplish much. At the very least, take five minutes to engage in self-myofascial release. To make the most of it, we recommend a full ten.
Pushing Yourself Isn’t the Answer
Take it easy on your body, especially when you’re starting out. During your early foam rolling sessions, each muscle or area should be pressed for around 20 seconds. That is enough time to work that knot out, but it isn’t so long that it will harm a particularly sensitive spot.
Eventually, each muscle group can be massaged for around two minutes as long as they aren’t too tender or sensitive. However, listen to your body. If a certain trigger point feels tender, don’t push it. Working on it for longer than necessary could cause bruising or even damage a nerve. Ouch!
Understanding Trigger Points
When a knot forms in your muscle, that’s sometimes referred to as a trigger point.
Trigger points can be pretty sensitive at best and downright agonizing at their worst, especially when they form in large amounts. This is referred to as myofascial pain syndrome.
Trigger points can be caused by personal posture, intense exercise, diet, or even emotional distress. By properly engaging in a foam-roller-based SMR massage, you can “release” these trigger points. This enables your body to attain a larger range of motion without pain during training. It also helps to realign your movement patterns to perform at your very best.
One unique element of trigger points is that they can lead to a strange (but sometimes wonderful) phenomenon known as “referred pain.” This term refers to a natural element of bodily relief through foam rolling and other forms of self-myofascial release. It is similar to the concept of acupuncture or acupressure. When a trigger point is massaged or pressed, the topical site isn’t the only area on your body to experience pain. With referred pain, this triggered point soreness will then radiate to another spot.
A common example of this technique is the use of a foam roller on your iliotibial band. Though your trigger point will lay around your knee and thigh, applying pressure to this knot will radiate (or “refer”) pain out to your legs, hips, and even all the way down to your ankles. There’s no use in sugarcoating it: this is not a painless or comfortable process. It can hurt quite a bit but should never be excruciating. After the foam rolling session is over, the pain should dissipate, and you can enjoy further benefits.
The Benefits of Foam Rolling
Is foam rolling good? Yes—in fact, we think it’s great! There are so many foam rolling benefits to enjoy. We’ve listed some of the most significant below.
It Eradicates Painful Knots
If you’ve ever suffered from uncomfortable knots in your neck, back, and other muscles, you’re well aware of how disruptive they can be. A good one-on-one massage session with your trusty foam roller can tackle and work through those tough knots and provide some much-needed relief.
It Can Improve Your Circulation
A self-myofascial release massage might give your circulatory system a boost. Working the tissue in a particular area of your body makes it easier for blood to flow toward that spot. This streamlines your workout and improves your overall health: a well-functioning circulatory system can promote heart health, as well as enhance your body’s arteries and muscles.
It Can Flush Nasty Toxins out of Your Body
Yes, it’s true: your foam roller can rid your body of nasty toxins.
Over time, your connective tissues accrue unwanted metabolic waste, like lactic acid. While this is completely normal, it isn’t something anybody wants or needs! Many health professionals believe that by directly focusing on a certain toxin-laden muscle or tissue area, one can break down and release the waste build-up.
It Can Help You Move Better
The benefits of foam rolling all come together to create an easier, more straightforward training session for you. Once part of your routine, you will likely see a major difference in your overall movements, whether at the gym or in real life.
When these benefits combine, your foam roller will begin to feel like an absolute gym essential!
Let’s Get Started!
Now that you’ve learned about foam rolling, it’s time to put your knowledge into action.
At Jack City Fitness, we provide the best Boise has to offer in fitness, nutrition, and self-confidence. Come and see for yourself! Call (208) 999-1111 to schedule a tour of our facility and try a FREE fitness consultation on our famous InBody machine. From there, you’ll be able to enjoy 24-hour gym access, amazing equipment, a large variety of group classes, personal fitness and nutrition coaching sessions, and even customized online training for the days that you can’t make it to our site.
Come visit us today! We can’t wait to show you everything we have to offer.