Imagine you're swaggering into the gym, as cool as the man in the photo, your body moves the way you want and you're not dealing with aches and pains. It's probably an epic feeling; the truth is though for most of us, injuries, hours at a desk, and overdoing the gardening this weekend have us feeling less than ideal. It's probably hard for us to cold touch our toes in the morning before moving around for a bit, so what can we do to start moving towards this swagger of regained mobility and feeling more like our 19 year old self? There are a ton of tools in the recovery and mobility side of the fitness industry, but today we want to focus on the biggest bang for the buck with the Foam Roller!
Whether this is a tool that you already incorporate into your training or that foam roller has been collecting dust on the shelf for months, we feel it's a worthwhile topic to cover as there can be some conflicting info and general confusion on the why, how, when and how much to foam roll. So let's get into it!
Did you know many advocates of foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (SMR), believe it to be nearly as effective as a massage? Benefits of foam rolling can range from muscle relaxation, improved blood and lymph flow, stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles, reduce pain, reduce stress, increase neuromuscular efficiency, and help maintain normal muscle length.
Yep, SMR can help increase Range Of Motion and mobility. How? Especially in the case of soft tissue damage to the muscle or fascia, and/or resulted scar tissue - this is essentially a disruption in the tissue pattern, and soft tissue interventions (such as SMR) can support the realignment of the patterning over the course of weeks or months. Let me repeat - WEEKS or MONTHS. That means incorporating SMR daily over the long-term can help, but just like with any other exercise, just hitting the roller once in a while without a consistent plan isn't going to do much for you when it comes to this specific benefit. Try building this into your regular workout routine before warm-up or after cool-down. (Ahem, that's in addition to, not instead of. Especially in the case of a warm-up. Don't skip the warm-up!).
I know you're excited, but before you run to your foam roller or lacrosse ball and hop on and go crazy, it's important that you're calm for this to work in your favor. Take some time to breathe slow and deep to get yourself into a relaxed state, and be sure to maintain this breathing throughout your session.
Alright, now that we're calm, we can get started. The basic mechanics are simple, really, you've got the floor, the foam roller, and your bodyweight to work with. You can increase or decrease pressure and intensity using your own bodyweight. Keep the roll slow and controlled. Once you find a tender spot, stay in that position and breathe deep. Try not to contract the muscle you're rolling. Instead of going crazy on the whole muscle, try breaking it into sections, starting at the top of the muscle and then working your way down. You don't need to spend more than 1-2 minutes per spot, dialing in 30-45 seconds of that work on tender areas. Again, if you want to get the most out of it, do it daily.
Example Foam Rolling Cool-down program after intense workout:
Roll tender spots for 30-45s, 1 set each area:
- Hamstrings and calves
- Glute med
- IT band/TFL
- Quads/hip flexors
Additionally, a lacrosse ball can be used for working into smaller muscle groups, like the suboccipital muscles, pecs, posterior region of the shoulder, TFL, calf and foot. Similar rules apply here, slow and controlled, vary the pressure using your bodyweight, breathe into tender areas and hold for 30-45s, and start at the top and work your way down. Your total investment in a foam roller and a lacrosse ball = $15, and 5-10 mins a day. Your Return On Investment? Feeling great, increased range of motion and mobility, leading to a reduction in likelihood of injury, faster recovery time, and higher performance in your workouts? Sounds like a no brainer to me!
If you're looking for some extra help with gaining back your flexibility?! Our programming, group or individual coaching has you covered with highly qualified coaches that have backgrounds as movement optimization specialist, functional range mobility specialist, and yoga certifications. We also help with accountability, motivation and most of all something that's FUN and sustainable, which is what you need. Let's be honest you have the foam roller at home collecting dust, maybe a theragun, maybe that lacrosse ball; it's probably next to that treadmill or bike that gets used once a month too, so you could use a place that takes the guesswork out, and shows you what to do and makes it an effective and efficient hour that gets you results.
Click the link below for to see how you can get started today.