Self-myofascial release (SMR), or self-massage, allows you to apply deep pressure to certain points of the body to release tightness and muscular tension. Foam rolling is one form of SMR. Adding foam-rolling exercises to your workouts can help prevent muscle soreness, alleviate tightness, improve flexibility, aid in recovery, and enhance range of motion.
But with foam rolling, more pressure isn’t always better. We need to have control of the amount of pressure applied and steer clear of pain. Learning how to control the amount of pressure to a mild and tolerable discomfort is important. The objective is help the area relax, and applying too much pressure can cause the opposite response. By using a softer roller to start and learning how much pressure our body can tolerate, we can avoid any unwanted or “bad” pain.
When should we foam roll? Foam rolling can be performed prior to and/or after your workouts; it depends on personal preference. When applying prior to a workout, focus on problematic areas, which may be sore or habitually tight. Foam rolling muscles which are not tight or sore may cause the muscle to relax to the point of being less effective during your workout. During post-workout SMR, we can focus on the major muscles worked, with an extra emphasis on the areas that may be problematic.
What are some of the benefits of foam rolling?
Improves flexibility and increases joint range of motion: As little as five minutes of foam rolling prior to your workout can enhance your flexibility and give you a greater range-of-motion before a resistance-training workout. This is beneficial because it can lead to a better performance during your workout and will ultimately reduce risk of injury and help increase strength.
Reduce exercise-related soreness: When muscles become sore and overused, knots develop within muscle fibers, decreasing the elasticity of the soft tissue. By foam rolling, you can essentially break up these knots or spasms to feel relief in a shortened muscle, calming the tight connective tissue between muscles.
Prevents injury: When fascia, or connective tissue, becomes restricted, adhesions form to cause soreness, restricted movement and potential injury. Foam rolling helps to increase blood flow and circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may be compromised.
There are a variety of recovery methods to help manage pain and improve your stretching, but research continues to support the use of SMR, including foam rolling, when performed on a regular basis. Although more research is needed to better understand how foam rolling works, for now it suggests that this modality can provide a meaningful impact on training if applied in the correct manner.
Key Word(s): Foam Rolling