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Foam Rolling 101

Allie Henderson foam rolling

Why should you foam roll?

Surrounding our muscles, bones, and organs is a network of connective tissue called fascia. Unlike our muscles which are more elastic in nature, fascia is more plastic in nature, made primarily from dense fibers of collagen. From a musculoskeletal point, fascia helps support efficiency of movement, reactive forces, and injury prevention. However, muscle imbalances, overuse, stress, and injuries can create “knots” or entanglements within the tissue, causing restriction of movement. We often refer to this areas as trigger points.

In an effort to untangle trigger points, break apart adhesions, and alleviate muscle soreness, SMR regularly can bring much relief. SMR also helps to restore the proper length-tension relationship your muscles need to improve your range of motion and reduce pain/tightness. Because of the friction and heat that is produced during foam rolling, blood flow is increased to the muscles and help hydrate the area. The heat also promotes playability within collagen fibers of fascia, translating to more flexibility for you. DISCLAIMER: SMR often-times is not pleasant; this is one of those, “hate me now, love me later” instances. While some pain is to be expected, you should not foam roll if your pain level is more than a 6 out of 10 (10 being unbearable) unless prescribed by your physical or occupational therapist. Please do not try to roll out bones, joints, or severe injuries.

How should you foam roll?

To begin, position the foam rolling on your troubled area. Start by rolling back and forth about 1-6 inches, depending on how big the area is. You need to feel a good amount of pressure for this to have the greatest amount of effect, but you also do not want it so painful that you start feeling tears trickle down your face.
Roll any tender areas for at least 60-90 seconds. In the beginning, however, you may need to start with shorter amounts of time and longer rest periods between your myofascial therapy. We also recommend starting with a softer foam and working your way up to a more dense roller. It is important to recognize that you are not limited to a foam roller for your SMR. Lacrosse balls, golf balls, muscle massage sticks, etc., are all great options to incorporate along with a traditional foam roller. You may incorporate the smaller rolling objects for specific areas (feet, glutes, hands, etc.).

When should you foam roll?

Feel free to incorporate SMR into your warm-up, in between workout sets, cool-down, or recovery day. Heck, you can even do it while you watch your favorite TV show! If you’re going to do it for a warm-up, make it shorter and target your specific troubled areas. It can often be beneficial to foam roll antagonist muscle groups to the area you are going to train (ie, if you are going to focus on pull-ups, foam rolling your chest and triceps would be beneficial). In between workout sets, roll out the muscles you have been working or antagonists, and as a cool-down you can make it as thorough as you have time for.

While there are a variety of recovery methods out there, we highly recommend trying SMR. When performed on a regular basis, you can expect increased mobility, movement efficiency, alleviated soreness, reduce your risk of injury and more.

Allie Henderson

Allie Henderson

Personal Trainer