Ah, the foam rollers!
Oh no, not the foam! These words are heard quite frequently at our training studio. Just what is the the purpose of the foam rollers and why do I need to do it every workout?
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. In other words a form of self massage. Prior to workouts at our studio, we routinely will roll out the iliotibial band, glutes, adductors, lats, t-spine, calves with massage sticks and tennis balls are used on the soles of the feet.
First off, lets cover a little physiology. Our muscle fibers contain what are called golgi tendons. These little organs are located at the muscle-tendon junctions and sense tension in the muscle. If there is a risk of injury, the golgi tendons (GTO) will stimulate muscle fibres to relax.
With foam rolling, we can simulate muscle tension which will cause the GTO to relax the muscle. This will help to keep the muscles pliable and allow them to work through a full range of motion. That is why we prefer to do foam rolling at the beginning of every work and during the workout if any muscle cramps occur.
Along with helping to relax the muscles to allow stretching and ROM work, the foam roller also helps to break down tissue adhesions and scar tissue. The break down of adhesions and scar tissue is important in order to allow muscles freedom of movement.
There are just a couple of considerations to think about with foam rolling. You should not roll on recently injured or bruised areas. Also any circulation issues (varicose veins) should not be rolled on. Individuals with fibromyalgia should foam roll only under the supervision of a fitness professional as this may cause an excaberation of symptoms. Also, any bony areas and joints should be avoided.
Positioning on the foam is important. You will want to ensure you maintain proper alignment of supporting muscles and joints. Generally, the amount of time necessary to spend foam rolling is determined by the tissue quality. As a rule between one to three minutes may be required on a particular area; less if not tight, more if it is.
Foam rollers are not the only means of doing self myofascial release. If the area is small or hard to get a with large foam rollers, medicine balls or massage sticks may be used.
Foam rollers can help by reducing pain and tension in the muscles and therefore help to restore normal muscle length and balance. This will all help to provide optimum joint motion which will lead to better performance.
Be one with the foam roller and your muscles will thank you!