If you are still of a mind that foam rolling is for everyone else, then you are missing out on one of the most effective tools at your disposal for physique-building, recovery and injury prevention. Rollers are the most popular mechanism for self-myofascial release, or SMR, and are gaining popularity among elite athletes of all walks because of the drastic and usually immediate impact it has on their performance and overall health. Here are some of the most frequently discussed aspects of foam rolling.
What is self-myofascial release?
Myofascial release is a hands-on technique that therapists have been using for years. To achieve this release, a therapist would apply a low load, long duration dragging force across layers of soft-tissue in the body. After a period of time, through some different mechanisms in the body, the body will “release” the tissue and mobility between those sliding surfaces is restored. To make these changes on oneself, a foam roller can be used in place of therapist’s hands. While the foam roller will never completely replace therapists, it serves as a great alternative.
Benefits of SMR for EVERYDAY WORKOUTS
SMR can have a wide range of benefits for the everyday gym-goer. Some of the basic, most obvious benefits will be increased blood flow throughout the body, better movement and increased range of motion. These benefits can decrease the chance of injury and decrease recovery time after a workout. A decreased recovery time means more training sessions per week/month and results can come quicker. Increased circulation is huge for recovery and greater range of motion means you get to work muscles more thoroughly on lifting days.
BASIC FOAM ROLLING EXERCISES YOU CAN START TODAY
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Quadriceps: Again, from the things we do, this area can become shortened and affect the function of the hips and put additional stress on the low back. Begin by lying down in a plank position and place the foam roller just above the kneecap. Slowly roll down (about an inch per second) towards the hip. If you find a tender spot, stop and hold for about 20 seconds. Then resume the rolling. After four rolls, bend the knee 4 times. Make sure to breathe through all of the rolling.
Upper back, thoracic spine: This area is designed for rotation and extension. With the postures most people are in, this area gets stuck. Begin by sitting on the ground and lay back to where the roller is just below the shoulder blades. Support your head with your hands and lean back into slight extension. Raise the hips and begin to roll towards the shoulders. Make sure not get pressure onto the neck. This area normally does not feel as tender as the others but if it does, again feel free to stop and hold pressure on one spot. Roll through the area of the spine four times with the hips up. Then, set the hips down and perform four crossfrictions, by mimicking an oblique crunch (side to side) with pressure on the roller.
When should SMR be done, ideally? Pre-workout as part of a dynamic warm-up? Post-workout? Both?
In a perfect world SMR would be done both before a workout as part of a dynamic warm-up and as part of a cool down. As part of the warm-up, it should be the first thing done, before any stretching or cardio. Here, it serves to get the blood flowing the areas that maybe aren’t receiving as much blood flow and helps to reduce tension in muscles. As part of a cool down, the rolling helps to flush out blood that has pooled in the working muscles and allows fresh nutrients and oxygen to come in and begin the healing process.
If one is limited with time (as most of us are) and can only choose one time to roll, pre-workout will get them the best results. For the benefits stated earlier, rolling for as little as five minutes before a workout can have a great impact on the quality of each training session.
What Happens After Rolling?
You may be sore the next day. It should feel as if your muscles have been worked/released, however you should not push yourself to the point of excessive soreness. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and eat clean. This will help to flush your system and fuel your muscles more effectively. Give it 24-48 hours before focusing on the same area again.