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The Whats, Whys, and Hows of Foam Rolling
So you got through a tough week at work and managed to stay alive after an all-out workout. You got sore muscles and trigger points all over your body, and rewarding yourself with a relaxing massage definitely counted as a good idea. But you’re tight on budget and barely have time to go the spa so you just decided to bear the pain.
Well, you don’t have to. For those who have no access to, or time or money for a massage therapist, there’s foam rolling – a less expensive, more accessible, and a smart alternative to a massage therapist.
What Foam Rolling Is
Foam rolling is a simple type of self-massage or self-myofascial release (SMR). Using a foam roller, deep pressure is applied to each muscle group so that tight muscles, fascia, and trigger points are released.
Why You Should Do It
There are many reasons why it’s good to foam roll before and after working out as shown in some recent studies. Here are some of them.
- It relieves sore muscles and tight spots
- When you foam roll before you exercise, tight spots are rolled out allowing you to actively stretch and flex your muscles when working out. It also helps release the tension in knotted muscles.
- It improves blood circulation
- When tight spots are rolled out, blood can circulate freely and toxins are easily flushed out. With improved blood circulation, the body’s recovery and healing ability also improves.
- It releases tight fascia
- Exercise generally tightens and shortens muscles causing the fascia, which protects your muscles below, to thicken and tighten. With foam rolling, you can release the tight fascia and allow your muscles to go back to their original length and size.
Foam rolling is truly beneficial but if you experience recurring pain from injuries or a pulled muscle, it’s better to consult your doctor before including foam rolling in your workout routine.
Pre-Workout Foam Rolling
If you want to increase your motion range when exercising without decreasing your muscle performance, foam rolling prior to working out is advisable for you. Studies show that foam rolling can significantly increase the quadriceps range of motion resulting in greater muscle flexibility.
Post-Workout Foam Rolling
There’s nothing more rewarding for your intensively worked out muscles than to give them a self-myofascial release. Doing a 5-10 minute foam roll as part of your cool down exercise can help lower your heart rate, release the muscle tension, as well as relieve the trigger points.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is typical after doing high intensity trainings, and foam rolling can help relieve it. Using your body weight, you can regulate the amount of pressure you want to apply on certain muscle groups that need myofascial release.
How to Do It the Right Way
Applying the right amount of pressure on areas being rolled out is key to achieving the relief you want from foam rolling. A good 5-10 minutes of myofascial release focused mainly on muscles extensively used during your workout can help release tight spots and muscle knots.
For 20 seconds, which is the same amount of time a massage therapist would work on an area, apply pressure on tender areas of each muscle group. Be careful not to do it for more than 20 seconds or you might bruise your muscles and fascia or aggravate a nerve.
If it’s your first time to foam roll, some of the basic foam roller routines that you can try are stretches for the IT band, the upper back, the calves, glutes, and quads.
Why It Hurts
Just as massage sometimes hurt, foam rolling can also give you that good kind of hurt. Why? Because you’re putting pressure on already sore and tight muscles and fascia.
But don’t worry. The relief and benefits you’ll get from it is definitely worth the pain and, you’ll only feel the discomfort while rolling. Once you stop rolling, the discomfort should instantly go away.
If you feel severe muscle soreness due to a highly intensive workout, and feel that foam rolling may be too painful for you at the time, you may wait for a few days before rolling on affected areas. Just keep in mind that while there may be discomfort, an increased performance and decreased muscle soreness and tension would be worth the effort.
Where To Buy A Foam Roller
Sporting goods stores, Amazon, Target, Walmart, online stores, and physical therapy offices are just some of the places where you can find and buy foam rollers in different sizes and densities. If you travel often, a small roller would be ideal for you. But if you want to regularly roll out your back and legs, you may opt to go for a larger and longer roller. A firmer foam roller can give you a high intensity massage while a softer one is good for a low intensity massage.
Alternatives to Foam Rollers
Here are some smart alternatives to foam rollers.
- Rolling pin
- You can use it for rolling out quads and hamstrings. It’s also handy enough so you can bring it with you when you travel. Just hold the ends of the rolling pin and start rolling out and applying pressure on your calves and hamstrings.
- Wine bottle
- Not only will you enjoy the wine, you can also use the bottle to roll out and relieve your sore muscles with.
- Tennis ball
- You can use it for hard-to-reach tight spots in your calves, in between your shoulder blades, your neck, the sides of your spine, and the arch of your foot, which a foam roller cannot easily get into.
- Lacrosse ball
- Like a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball can get into hard-to-reach areas. You may use it apart from or along with the foam roller.
With a foam roller, you can relieve your muscles, improve your blood circulation, and increase your motion range. So, grab one now and start getting the most of your workout.