Myofascial Release, which is a method used to alleviate tension in the muscles, improve blood flow and help with recovery is done by applying pressure to the muscles by rolling or kneading the muscle — similar to massage, only you can do it yourself. That’s a big word for what most folks call “Foam Rolling” or rolling out with a tennis or lacrosse ball. It’s one of the easiest, safest and most effective ways to alleviate tight muscles and improve performance. In this article, we’ll be talking “foam rolling” but understand you can use different pieces of equipment to accomplish the same thing!
Foam Rolling Benefits
Many times we’ll hear that foam rolling broke down adhesions — also called knots or trigger points — and actually changed the structure of the muscle and connective tissue, or fascia, that surrounds the muscles. This might not be the case — it’s really hard to change the mechanical breakdown of tissues. What it does essentially, is that foam rolling is taking muscles that are in a really tense state, and trying to make them chill just a bit! Tight muscles that are “bound up” is like driving a car with the brake on! The muscle units fight against each other and make it hard for the muscle to perform at its peak level.
For a muscle to work properly, it needs to contract and relax at the same time. If parts of the muscle are always working or tense, it’s not really going to work all that well and we can’t perform at our best.
Foam rolling also helps increase range of motion. For example, foam rolling your quads should improve range of motion at your hips. The quad is able to move through an increased length, which allows the hip joint to move through a greater range of motion.
And finally, foam rolling can aid in the recovery process after a hard workout.
A faster and more effective recovery allows your body to rebuild your muscles after training and be prepared for the next workout or sporting event.
How do I use a foam roller?
Foam rolling might look really easy, but if not done right, you can fail to receive its benefits. Here are some guidelines to use foam rolling effectively:
How often to foam roll
Foam rolling isn’t like brushing your teeth. Do it once a day to maintain your body and feel great, but we usually say no more — unless you’re a high level athlete or competing at a high level. Too much foam rolling can overly stress your tissues — especially if you have an aggressive rolling routine. This is one of the cases where “Too much isn’t always better”!
When to foam roll
Any time is a good time to roll. You can do it when you wake up, before you go to bed, before a workout, after a workout or between sets as active recovery. That said, a lot of the research says that before a workout could be the best time to take full advantage of the benefits of foam rolling.
How long to foam roll
You DON’T need to roll for 30 minutes or an hour! Your complete foam roll routine should take about 5-10 minutes. Spend about a minute rolling each of your major muscles, focusing on painful areas or adhesions. When you find a painful area, stay on it for at least 15-30 seconds, which is typically the amount of time it takes to release tension.
What muscles to foam roll
The most common areas to foam roll include the calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes (buttocks), IT band (outside of the thighs), lats, upper back, chest and shoulders. However, you can target any major muscle groups as long as you don’t — and this is important — DO NOT roll over a joint or bone, which can cause pain and tissue damage. For example, foam roll to just above your knee and just below your hip when working on your quads.
How fast to roll
Many people make the mistake of rolling back and forth quickly. It might feel good, but it’s not doing much to alleviate tension. Instead, move slowly up and down the length of the muscle and focus on the thickest part of the muscle. Search for painful areas and give those spots extra attention. For every 2 inches you roll, roll backwards 1 inch — up 2 back 1 as you work your muscle is a good rule of thumb. Also, remember to breath — each inhale and exhale should take about 3-5 seconds.
For some quick videos on the right way to roll and hit those major areas, you can go to www.coachrozy.com and pull up the videos on Foam Rolling. You can also print off our Coach Rozy Foam Rolling file which gives instruction and pictures that you can take to the gym or use at home to foam roll the right way and help improve your performance!
Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen is Founder/Director of Coach Rozy Performance — Powered by AVERA Sports Yankton. He can be reached at 817-219-2811, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find more information at www.coachrozy.com.