We’ve all seen people at the gym rolling around on these things, you’ve seen them on the shelves at Walmart even. So what are these things and why should you be using them?
What is the purpose of a foam roller?
We all know going to see a registered massage therapist (RMT) helps you feel loose, limber and relaxed. A RMT is trying to break down adhesion and scar tissue that form on your muscle after repetitive use or injury. If we could go every day to see a RMT we would but it may be a tad bit expensive. So this is where self myofascial release (SMR) comes into play. The purpose of SMR is to manipulate what your RMT is doing with their hands, elbows and forearms but utilizing tools such as a foam roller and lacrosse ball.
How do I use it?
Firstly pick a sore spot and target it with the foam roller. Once you have found that spot you can roll over it a few times to soften it up and provide some relief. Then proceed to pin that sore spot down by staying on it. From here you are going to move the limb around in as many directions as you can. This movement while pinning down the sore spot is what will break down the adhesion and free up any restrictions, similar to Active Release Therapy (ART).
For harder to reach spots or to really pin down a stubborn sore spot try a lacrosse ball.
Guidelines to help you start:
- Always start with the most painful spots first. Nagging sore spots, tight muscle groups and positions of restriction should be your priority. Secondly target areas that may restrict a particular movement you will be performing in your workout or activity.
- Spend no less than 2 minutes on each spot. If you are pinning a sore spot and moving your limbs through flexion and extension try high repetitions of 20 or more.
- Start with three target areas. Getting overly ambitious can be overwhelming and painful.
What are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
Just as with regular massage sessions with your RMT, regular practice with your foam roller and lacrosse ball can provide relief from restricted muscles and an increase in mobility in the targeted area. This may mean a deeper squat, a pain free run or improved posture.
What Foam Roller Should I Buy?
Look for a durable roller with an appropriate firmness for your pain tolerance. If you are new to foam rolling or massages start with something a bit softer and not to dense. If you like it rough (get your mind out of the gutter!) try a more dense roller and/or a roller with notches to really get into all the sore spots. You can purchase a quality foam roller from a fitness store or a health performance clinic.
If you would like to learn more about foam rolling check out the resources I have listed below.
Starrett, Dr. Kelly. Becoming a Supple Leopard The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. Las Vegas: Victory Belt, 2013