Foam rollers have just started to make their regular appearance into big gyms and homes everywhere. There was a time where these rollers were just utilized by physical therapists, trainers and professional athletes. After a bit of clinical research, this “technique” has become an everyday practice of many in the fitness world. With just a small investment and a few minutes a day, foam rolling can be used at home to help “improve mobility, increase range of motion, reduce risk of injury and or remove muscular pain throughout the body.”
How does foam rolling work? Foam rolling is a “self-myofascial release” which is a “method that relaxes overactive muscles that are preventing proper activation and motion.” So by positioning your body on the roller it activates pressure on trigger points or tight spots throughout the muscles. By holding this pressure on the muscles, it begins to relax the tight areas, causing the pain and tightness to reduce and releasing the trigger points. Foam rolling might not be relaxing in the common sense of the word, but it can make a huge difference in your training.
What are the benefits of foam rolling? A study by the Osaka Aoyama University, found foam rolling reduces arterial stiffness and thus increasing blood flow. With releasing muscle tightness, inflammation and pain are relieved and blood flow is restored throughout the body. With better blood flow means “better removal of waste for the tissues and better delivery of nutrients,” which yields better muscle repair. Another study by American College of Sports Medicine demonstrated that foam rolling decreases the severity of “delayed on-set muscle soreness” that occurs after training and increases range of motion. With these benefits it can decrease chance of injury and lessens recovery time after a workout. Foam rolling can mean less recovery time, which in turn can mean possibly more training sessions with quicker results. It can also bring a greater range of motion, which means working the muscles more thoroughly during strength training, giving you a bigger and better end result.
Which stretches should you be doing with the foam roller? With foam rolling, you want to focus on bigger muscle groups to start. For example, 8 stretches/exercises to start with would be the Upper Back, Lats, Quads, IT Band, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves and Shins. There are numerous ways to stretch and use the foam roller, if you are interested in directions and photos of these 8 exercises mentioned above, check out the Oxygen Magazine diagrams (http://www.oxygenmag.com/article/8-foam-roller-exercises-8595).
By adding foam rolling into your exercise routine, you gain the benefits of a sports massage, reduced inflammation throughout the body, as well as improved circulation and flexibility. The uses and benefits are endless, so go ahead and try it, we dare you!
Credits: Oxygen Magazine, Michael Matthews of Muscles for Life and American College of Sports Medicine