Using a foam roller regularly is like having your own tube-shaped masseuse. Foam rolling your muscles and stopping on tender or sore areas puts pressure on adhesions, or knots as you may know them. This stimulation these can aid in the recovery of muscles and bring them back to their former glory. Many athletes and avid fitness doers swear by their foam roller, and I do too. Here are some of the top reasons you should be foam rolling if you’re not already.
Reduce pain and tightness in muscles
When foam rolling and putting pressure onto these adhesions or knots, you can break up and relax these tight spots of bunched up tissue. Essentially what you’re doing is massaging and stimulating the fascia – fibrous tissue that surrounds your muscles and connects them to the kinetic chain. Fascia needs to be mobile, and move with the muscles. By foam rolling you can keep the muscle loose and mobile ensuring that you maintain your flexibility, reduce adhesions (which can be quite painful!), and increase your mobility. Katie Brumley over at Scrubbing In says that stretching may actually exacerbate fascia and muscle tightness issues, so stick to foam rolling to regain your range of motion and increase flexibility.
I just touched on increasing your mobility in the end of the last paragraph, so let’s go into how you can improve your mobility, and flexibility through foam rolling. As mentioned, you want to keep your fascia adhesions to a minimum to maintain muscle mobility. If you have knots in your glutes, and hip regions, then your hip and more importantly squat mobility may be affected. By foam rolling regularly, you will regain and maybe even improve your mobility for certain movements. A lot of people might think that they are inflexible due to shortened muscles – when in reality it is often adhesions in the fascia restricting full movement.
“Imagine your muscle, covered in fascia, as a shoestring. The shoestring has a knot in it. If you grab both ends of the shoestring and pull in opposite directions, what happens to that knot? It gets tighter and tighter the more you pull.”
If you’ve had a specific traumatic event, you may also experience less pliable and dense fascia that will require frequent foam rolling to undo. Design a program for your needs and stick with it.
Save money – free massages!
Have you ever had a deep tissue massage? It’s pretty well the same thing as foam rolling your sore and tight muscles – except you have to do all of the work unfortunately. If you’re able to get in a good routine of foam rolling regularly, you’re giving yourself a regular deep tissue massage. Keep at it, and those muscles won’t be so sore and tight and you won’t need a massage!
Adhesions and fascia build up can put a lot of stress on the muscles, and body. By rolling out these tight areas you’re doing yourself a huge favor by reducing tension in your body. Roll regularly and reap the physical and mental stress relieving rewards.
Tips to get started with foam rolling
Before you go rushing out to buy a foam roller and tenderize your body like a piece of meat, here’s a few more tips on how to foam roll properly and effectively:
- Use Breaking Muscle’s squat screening and hip hinge screening to see which areas you need to focus on when foam rolling.
- When rolling, apply pressure to the muscle using your bodyweight. Go slowly, and when you hit a tender or painful spot, pause for up to 30 seconds. Keep rolling over the ,muscle until you’ve massaged all of these spots.
- You can perform foam rolling multiple times per day, which is definitely recommended if you have problem areas that you want to work on.
- Use foam rolling as a great tool to warm up for your workouts, and to aid in recovery afterwards.
- Never roll on a joint or bone.
Here are some simple tutorials including videos and images that I wrote up to get you started with foam rolling. Once you’ve found your target areas that you want to improve upon, build a routine to regularly stimulate and relieve these areas.
- Foam rolling the hip flexor
- Foam rolling the IT band
- Foam rolling your chest
- Foam rolling the piriformis muscle – Often relieves sciatic nerve and hip pain
Thanks for reading and happy rolling!
Scott from Mobility Guardian – A resource for mobility exercises, foam rolling, and stretching.