Ever get that feeling of extreme muscle soreness a day or two after an intense workout? Or how about that ridiculous amount of tightness in the hips and lower back when you do a squat, or calves when you go for a run? I know I do. But the real question is, how do you quickly and effectively relieve yourself from this discomfort and pain without having to see a massage therapist, or even worse, a doctor or physical therapist! The answer is foam rolling.
Let’s start by talking about what foam rolling is. What’s actually happening when you lay over that tubular torture tool is called self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR helps improve flexibility, restore joint function and reduces muscle soreness; in return all of these things help reduce your chances of injury.
So how do you actually foam roll? Sorry to get all technical on you, but the act of foam rolling involves slow pressure waves through the muscle. Pressure on the muscle stimulates the muscle’s neural receptors, specifically the golgi tendon organ, which forces the muscle to relax, thus creating more blood flow and improved range of motion.
Basically, what you’re doing is giving yourself a massage, and yes it can be slightly painful so don’t give up or feel like your doing something wrong. If you feel some discomfort, that’s actually a good sign (a good sign that whatever area your rolling needs some attention). Look at it this way, sometimes you have to experience a little pain in order to feel joy.
Some key places to target when you foam roll are your back and shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. Basically your entire body. Be sure to go slow, simply rolling back and forth might feel good for the moment, but you’re missing the point of stimulating those neural receptors we talked about earlier.
SMR can be done before a workout as a part of your warm up, or after when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching and rolling techniques. Foam rolling is also a great form of recovery on your off days from the gym. Rollers are generally inexpensive but other tools can be used also such as softballs, lacrosse balls or even PVC pipe.
Foam rolling is beneficial for all populations and the results are often times instantaneous. Do yourself a favor and spend some time rolling it out ASAP…your body will thank you.