You may of heard of it, you may have seen one in the corner of the gym and you may of even used one…but do you know all the benefits and exactly what Foam Rolling is doing for your body? If I’m being honest I don’t stretch or foam roll anywhere near as often as I should, I tend to go in phases or realising how fantastic I feel afterwards so religiously stretch and roll for a week or two, then when I’m in a hurry skip it and don’t reintroduce it back into my routine until my body feels tight and needs some extra mobilising!
As the name suggests, self-myofascial release does exactly that, helps to release or loosen the fibrous layer or sheath of connective tissue called the fascia. If the fascia is not stretched properly it can become almost cross linked, binding to the muscles and nerves, restricting normal motion and ultimately causing pain. The best analogy I can use, without getting to technical, is to imagine your muscle fibre and fascia as two bungee cords tied together. Stretching after working out with help to lengthen the cords but will do nothing to release the knot. Foam rolling the area will help to break down the knot meaning the cords can be stretched fully. It is the same, or similar result as having a connective tissue massage or soft tissue release massage (although I’m sure sports massage therapists would argue their corner!)
The benefits of foam rolling do not just stop at helping to increase range of motion of a muscle. The rolling action actively promotes blood flow to the area, increasing the delivery of oxygen. This in itself has numerous benefits, post workout it helps to flush toxins out of the muscle AND delivers fresh blood, carrying nutrients and oxygen to immediately begin the recovery process. Pre workout by promoting blood flow and therefore oxygen delivery, lots of new research suggests muscles are then able to perform better throughout your workout, giving better overall results from the training session. There is an increasing number of experts who believe the benefits of foam rolling pre workout far outweigh the advantages gained post workout, but they are unanimous that foam rolling at any stage of your workout is advantageous to your body.
A combination of lengthening and stretching the muscle paired with increased oxygen delivery result in faster recovery time for athletes and reduced risk of injury. Foam rolling is also a great way to target specific muscles or individual problem areas as it’s self controlled, so one athlete might suffer from tight hamstrings whereas another may have problematic lower back or hip tightness. As foam rolling can literally target any muscle, you are able to focus on the specific areas you need to, quickly and easily.
Last and by no means least, they are cheap and can be used anywhere! Having a very quick internet search, I found a trigger point foam roller for £6.79, so really there is no excuse not to incorporate this simple yet effective method of self massage into your workouts or better still, daily routine. I know I’m going to make the effort…