Foam rolling often goes unnoticed in the health and fitness sector with it’s benefits not really known. Some of us see it as this tube we roll over to crack our backs or to lay on and balance for core stability, not many of us understand the mechanics of the foam roller.
One of the main things we should know is that foam rolling is painful! It hurts a lot, and sometimes more in certain places as opposed to others. Whelps of pain and sharpe intakes of breath come with the package so grab a towel and prepare for a bumpy ride.
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique used to help prevent over active muscles. Foam rollers normally come in the form of a solid tube, but can also take the shape of a ball or stick. The main difference between the two is the practicality, the ball can reach many places that the tube can not so therefore it is more specific tool. There is also another style of roller called a trigger point roller. It contains little grid pockets that create extra rigidity that make finding those hard to reach places of the muscle easier to find.
The aim of foam rolling is to breakdown the build up of all the toxins that rest in the body, inside the muscles and tendons, by putting pressure on them with the foam roller. This pressure helps to break them down into the bloodstream, which will eventually be flushed out of the body. You can roll almost any part of the body but beware, some parts of the body generally hurt more than others…I mean, really hurt (*cough* IT Band *cough*).
How to Foam roll
The idea behind foam rolling is to iron out all those knots and kinks we gather when we train by pressing down on the toughest parts on the muscle (which normally results in a painful reaction).
Start at one end of the muscle (this is normally the end closest to the core) and slowly move down the muscle whilst trying to adjust yourself so you hit every knot in the muscle. You want to find a painful spot and apply as much pressure as possible to that area until 70% of the pain has gone or until 30 seconds have elapsed, whichever one comes first. You want to keep moving down along the muscle until that same painful feeling occurs and then repeat the pressure to it, until 70% of the pain or 30 seconds elapse. When done properly, this can take anywhere from 5 - 20 minutes one just one muscle part! Ouch!!
Do you even foam roll?
What is it good for? There are many benefits to foam rolling with one of the main ones being a reduction of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS are described as the pain we feel 24-72 hours after a bout of exercise. Foam rolling before a workout is a great way to help promote increased flexibility as well as wake up sleeping muscles. For instance, using a foam roller on the lower body before doing some squats can give the feeling of ‘looseness’ and effectively help to improve technique.
Alternatively, the inclusion of foam rolling straight after a workout can greatly help to decrease the level of DOMS.
How often do I roll?
There isn’t really a guideline when it comes to foam rolling and we tend to adapt a ‘the more the better’ approach in this because it is considered a form of massage and encourages recovery.
How much are they?
Foam rollers usually start at around £10 and range to around £45 for a more high end roller. Most sport shops have a type of foam roller for sale, or if you want to explore all options, then have a check online.
- Kellie C. Healey, Disa L. Hatfield, Peter Blanpied, Leah R. Dorfman, and Deborah Riebe - The Effects of Myofascial Release with Foam Rolling on Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2014.
- Gregory E. P. Pearcey, David J. Bradbury-Squires, Jon-Erik Kawamoto, Eric J. Drinkwater, David G. Behm, and Duane C. Button - Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 50, No 1, 2015.
- Corey A. Peacock, Darren D. Krein, Tobin A. Silver, Gabriel J. Sanders and Kyle-Patrick A. Von Carlowitz - An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the Form of Foam Rolling Improves Performance Testing. International Journal of Exercise Science, Vol. 7, No 3, 2014.
- Daniel H. Junker, Thomas L. Stöggl - The Foam Roll as a Tool to Improve Hamstring Flexibility. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Vol. 29, No. 12, 2015.