So What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling's technical name is known as Self Myofascial Release (SMR). This form of therapy has become extremely popular in recent years with fitness enthusiasts right across the globe. As it has become more popular and affordable you will notice practically every gym and fitness store sells a form of foam rollers in a variety of different shapes and sizes. But how do you use them?
Well let me explain.
Self myofascial release is a fancy term for self massage. As you are probably aware there are lots of sports massage therapists in and around the city who provide an awesome service. However, depending on your location a 45 minute treatment working on problematic parts of your body can cost you a pretty penny. This is normally a service where you have to return to to get further treatments a couple weeks later to continuously asses the problem in order for you to feel better. A foam roller will probably cost you forty pounds give or take and this is something you can use everyday to help work in between your massage sessions, thus giving you the best chance at a full recovery. Not only can they be used for injury's you can use them to relieve your body of it’s aches and pains after your workouts.
The foam roller when used correctly is very effective at breaking up muscle knots which can cause injury and pain if not addressed. The best way in which to foam roll is to use your body weight whilst rolling over the affected area. It’s kind of like using a rolling pin to roll out dough, the more you roll the smoother the dough gets. Well, it’s the same with your muscles.
What Is It I Am Actually Rolling?
Well the answer is plain and simple, it’s called fascia. What’s that I hear you ask? Well fascia is a band or sheath of connective tissue that is constantly being created throughout our body. It helps support and or bind together internal organs and other parts of the body. Using the foam roller helps stretch your muscles and really hits those hard to reach places whilst breaking down soft tissue and scar tissue caused by lifting weights and exercising. Foam rolling helps to increase the blood flow and circulation throughout the body which is great for recovery from strenuous exercise. It’s best to foam roll after a workout as your muscles are already warm and you can achieve the best results.
This is what you are doing when you foam roll. You are gently massaging the selected muscle by applying a sustained pressure over the area. Rolling the fascia you are gently breaking it apart which is why it hurts when you roll. Over a period of time rolling softens and lengthens your muscles which help improve your overall fitness due to less occurring injuries. It will also help you complete activities during your daily life pain free. During and after you have rolled, palpated and squeezed it is important to drink plenty of water. The reason for this is when you roll your muscles you are releasing toxins from within. By drinking water, you are helping to flush the body of this waste through the kidneys and out the body
Where Can I Do my Foam Rolling?
If you haven’t done any foam rolling before I am sure you have see people in the gym rolling around the floor in various areas trying to perform self myofascial release techniques they have picked up from the latest editions of fitness magazines. You may actually be one of the lucky ones where you haven't actually seen any foam rolling before, this is great as this article will allow you to hopefully understand the benefits and how to do it properly.
Most gyms nowadays have a variety of foam rollers, tennis balls and various other bits and bobs that look like they have been taken off the set of a horror film. I can assure you that they are safe and of course beneficial if you know how to use them. They are normally stored over beside the warm up mats or the ‘quiet zone’ in the gym and this is a great place to use them. You will may have seen people or experienced yourself, stepping over a number of ‘gym rats’ who take the innocent foam roller and violate them over in the squat racks. They roll their legs out for 20mins before actually doing anything and occupying not only the squat rack but a roller too. Do not follow suit for a couple reasons, you can take up a lot of space, it’s dangerous as there is some heavy weights moving around and if you fling a leg out whilst someone is squatting then the end result is never going to be good. Keep your rolling in the stretching area where you’ll be safe.
You are normally more than welcome to take your own foam roller into the gym, if this is the case you probably use it at home too. This is great as you can literally work on your SMR release most days and therefore getting better results.
What Part of the Body Should I Perform Myofascial Release on?
The great thing about SMR is that you can literally perform SMR on any part of the body. Make sure that you are working along the whole length of the tissue. For example if you are working on the quadriceps (front of the thigh) you should start at the knee and work up to the hip. There will be areas along certain muscles that may be a bit tender however, the more you roll out the less tender they become.
Here’s A List Of Foam Rolling Techniques That I Recommend
That’s right, this is often neglected when working on SMR but probably one of the most important areas to release. The tissue here can have a negative effect on the calf muscles, hamstrings and lower back as the fascia of the human body is one massive kinetic chain. If you are tight in your hamstrings or lower back you may be inclined to work these areas and hope that over time things improve. I would suggest starting with your rolling you plantar fascia (sole of your foot) and see how this affects the rest of the body.
Place a mini roller/tennis ball or golf ball under your foot and roller forward back back for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe through any pain and focus your mind on the feeling afterwards.
Placing the foam roller under your calf, you are going to roll the from the ankle to up to your knee. Place your opposite leg on the one that’s being roller to add a downward pressure. Switch legs after 30 seconds.
Place the foam roller under the back of your upper leg with either one foot on the ground or placed on top like the calf roll. Keeping your back nice and straight you want to roll from the back of the knee to your bum. Switch legs after 30 seconds.
Flip over onto your front and support yourself on your forearms of hands. Place the foam roller above the knee and roll up your thigh to your hip and back. Repeat for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Glutes Aka Bum
Use a tennis ball or foam roller for this. Shift your weight to one side and sit on the roller, in a circular motion feel for the muscle and the area of discomfort and work for 30 seconds. This is almost like kneading bread.
Lie on your back with the foam roller under your shoulder blades using your hands to support your head. Make sure you are not to far up on the neck as this is not an advisable area to roller. Roll up and and down the back.
If you would like any further advice on foam rolling techniques or you would like to find out what and where to buy from please get in touch. I would be happy to advise you. They make a great Christmas stocking filler for the fitness enthusiast in your family, your welcome ;)
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My name is Calumn Duthie, founder of CD Fitness Coaching. You’ll find me in and around the gym and helping like minded people just like you get the results they deserve. I enjoy everything from keeping fit, yoga, snowboarding, coffee and making people happy. If you would like to improve your nutrition, training and mindset then you definitely want to be part of my bigger community. Join my Facebook group,Healthy Living With CD Fitness Coaching is a must.