Foam rollers seem to be popping up everywhere lately. The chiropractor’s office, Target, yoga studios…most of us probably have one sitting in a closet somewhere by this point. But do you really know how to use it? The benefits to foam rolling seem endless, but if not used correctly there is also potential damage to be done.
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial-release (SMR) that can have similar benefits as traditional massage. Minus the cost! These foam cylinders come in a variety of different sizes, styles, and densities. Lightweight and inexpensive, it is no wonder they have become so popular.
How do they work?
• Fascia is a connective tissue surrounds muscles and organs to keep them safe and secure. It is made mostly of collagen and is constantly reinforcing itself throughout your life.
• Foam rolling keeps fascia healthy by getting rid of adhesions in your connective tissue. It breaks up scar tissue within the muscle and fascia.
• Breaking up this scar tissue increases the mobility of the fascia and therefore the muscle.
• Foam rolling also increases blood circulation.
What about stretching?
• For a long time, stretching was thought to be the only way to increase flexibility.
• Stretching may be even more beneficial when done after foam rolling. The SMR increases the flexibility of the muscle.
Can it prevent injury?
• Foam rolling can be a great tool for preventing new injuries and re-injuries.
• This is because many injuries runners and triathletes are prone to are caused by poor tissue mobility.
• Both SMR and stretching can decrease the odds of an injury.
When should I use a foam roller?
• Ideally, a foam roller should be utilized both before and after a workout.
• As part of a warm up, foam rolling loosens up sore muscles and reduces tension before exercise. With the increased range of motion, you can work each muscle more thoroughly.
• When used during a cool down, fresh blood and oxygen are brought to the muscles and fascia. This increase in circulation can aid muscle recovery.
What are the best techniques?
• In order to reap the benefits from foam rolling, your muscles must be allowed to relax.
• Slow down and breathe. Try to take your time.
• Don't spend more than 20 seconds on a sore spot. Work the area around it, then roll out the whole muscle.
Do you know any foam roller tips or tricks? Tell us in the comments below!
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The following sources were utilized in this article:
Elliott, Brynne. “Foam Rolling: Total Body Benefits”. http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/foam-rolling-total-body-benefits. September 2017.
Fleet Feet Sports. "Benefits of Foam Rolling...Even for Healthy Runners". http://www.fleetfeethartford.com/sports-medicine/benefits-of-foam-rolling. September 2017.
Yu, Christine. "5 Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/18/foam-rolling-mistakes_n_4980975.html. March 18, 2014.