How often do you spend recovering from your workouts? And by recovering I mean stretching, foam rolling, rest, massage, etc.
Are your muscles tight?
Are you frequently feeing injured or sore?
Maybe you're spending extra time at your chiropractor's office?
Or just finding that your body isn't moving like it used to?
If so, then foam rolling might be just the thing your body needs to aid in it’s recovery.
SMR (self myofascial release) or foam rolling deals with the neural and fascial systems in the body. These systems can be negatively affected by poor posture, repetitive motions, or dysfunctional movements.
These “stressful” movements are interpreted by the body as injury and lead to the development of soft tissue adhesions/trigger points/knots/tender spots. Whatever you want to call those nagging aches and pains. Ouch!
These adhesions, if left untreated, will cause altered movement patterns, muscular imbalances, and tightness. Foam rolling will help alleviate these knots to restore optimal muscle function, flexibility, and proper body movement.
I know, we are all busy. And now I’m telling you to add something else into your day. Why would I do such a thing? Because the benefits of foam rolling are well worth your time and just might keep you moving (happily) for longer.
- Correct muscular imbalances
- Improved blood flow
- Improved joint range of motion
- Reduced soreness and improved tissue recovery
- Decreased chance of injury
- Decreased recovery time (meaning more training, achieving results sooner!)
- Improvements in flexibility
So how does foam rolling work? Let’s get science-y for a minute.
Our muscles contain two neural receptors, Muscle Spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs.
Muscle spindles are sensory receptors which run parallel to the muscle fibers. They are sensitive to change in muscle length and cause the muscles to contract.
Golgi tendon organs (GTO), are located in the muscle/tendon junctions. When stimulated they cause the muscles to relax.
Okay, not too complicated so far...
Foam rolling is based on the principal of autogenic inhibition. In simple terms, this means when the pressure of the body against the foam roller is sustained for a length of time (at least 30 seconds) on the trigger point (knots/adhesions/sore spots), the GTO will “turn off” the muscle spindle activity allowing the muscle fibers to stretch, unknot, and realign. Ahhhhhhhhhh
Now that you understand why you should foam roll and how it works, let’s talk about when you should do it.
Foam rolling can be done as part of your dynamic warm up, part of your cool down, or any time your body is feeling tight or sore. I enjoy foam rolling in the evening (before bed) or sometimes first thing in the morning to help ease off any stiffness I may be experiencing.
Start by slowly rolling the targeted area until the most tender spot is found. Stay settled on that spot, breathing and relaxing until you feel the discomfort reduced. Again, at least 30+seconds. Do not roll back and forth vigorously, this can actually cause the muscle to “excite” instead of relax. And if you cannot stay on the spot due to pain, then go just above or below it…until you find an area that you can relax on. I've included some images of the most common body parts to roll, for reference, at the end.
I generally don’t foam roll before a workout. But I have had some clients start on the roller for 2-5 minutes if they are experiencing tightness. It can help get the blood flowing and improve their mobility. In this case I would have them gently roll over the tender spots versus “sitting” on the trouble spots.