Foam Rolling or Self-Myofascial Release (SMF) is a safe and effective way to improve the tone of a muscles and break down muscle adhesion’s (you know the feeling when you’ve smashed your legs on a big run or with lots of squats or lunges and they feel quite hard and bumpy?)
If you can imagine all your muscles are surrounded by a glad wrap, called fascia. When we exercise, muscle is broken down and small tears are made (in a good way! don’t think painful shredding muscles) This enables our muscles to get bigger and grow.
These little micro tears in the muscle become trapped in the fascia and need to be “smoothed” or “rolled out. If you think leaving them will eventually fix the soreness, you are unfortunately wrong.
It just leads to more problems down the road such as muscle imbalance, reduced flexibility (limiting what types of exercises you can perform) and pain. What the foam roller aims to do is smooth out these adhesion and aid recovery.
While stretching allows muscles to lengthen, this lengthening can sometimes lead to injury. Foam rolling ensures recovery is speedy and muscle imbalances are corrected. I recommend everyone foam roll, if you are not already doing so.
How Do You Foam Roll?
You use a high density foam roller (generally 10cm x 90cms) on your whole body before and after a workout. Available from New Outlook Fitness $55 plus postage
I generally get clients (and myself) to start on their fronts. Place the roller across your quads and slowly roll along the quad. Find the sore spots and stay on them for 45 secs- 1 min, just keep working your way through the whole body. You’ll experience cracks and creaks, this is perfectly normal and saves you going to the chiro for an adjustment!
Here Are The Spots I Recommend You Roll:
Body is positioned prone with quadriceps on foam roll. It is very important to maintain proper Core control (abdominal Drawn-In position & tight gluteals) to prevent low back compensations. Roll from pelvic bone to knee, emphasizing the lateral thigh.
ITB (Iliotibial Band)
Particularly good if you are a runner and experience sore knees. Position yourself side lying on foam roll. Bottom leg is raised slightly off floor or just touching depending on pain level. Maintain head in “neutral” with ears aligned with shoulders. Roll just below hip joint down the lateral thigh to the knee.
TFL (Tensor Fasicae Latae)
Great to reduce hip flexor pain and aid back pain. Foam roll is placed just lateral to the anterior (front) pelvic bone
These get tight and sore from squats and lunges. Roll these to improve ROM (range of movement) Begin positioned as shown with foot crossed to opposite knee. Roll on the posterior hip area. Increase the stretch by pulling the knee toward the opposite shoulder.
Place hamstrings on the roll with hips unsupported. Feet are crossed to increase leverage.
Roll from knee toward posterior hip while keeping quadriceps tightened.
Place calves on the roll with hips unsupported. Feet are crossed to increase leverage.
Don’t forget the upper body:
Position yourself side lying with arm outstretched and foam roll placed in axillary area. Thumb is pointed up to pre-stretch the latissumus dorsi muscle. Movement during this technique is minimal.
Don’t go any lower than your navel. Place Hands either side of head. While maintaining abdominal Draw-In position, raise hips until unsupported. Also stabilize the head in “neutral.” Roll mid-back area on the roller.
Lie on roller vertically. Place hands either side of head and hold this one for 1-3mins. maintain neutral spine along the roller also. Great if you sit in front of a computer all day.