Before I get into this post I want you to ask yourself one question. Why do you exercise? Weight loss? Health? Training for a sport or an upcoming race? Do you just like to work out to “tone” your muscles,get that chiseled core and perfect asset? My guess is that you at least answered yes to one of these so now that I have you thinking I just want to ask “Do you foam roll?”.What do those pool-toy-looking-thingies have to do with all of those things you might ask? Well, a lot actually. What happens from years of inactivity, working at a desk, not stretching properly, and being a straight up couch potato has led our bodies to tighten up like a clam. Tight hips, tight lats, tight hams, tight calves (notice how all of these are on the posterior side…we will get to that another time). We can’t move – because we are tight. We can’t lose weight – because we are tight. We can’t get that perfect body – because we are tight. Get the picture?
So now that we are all on the same page, no matter what you go to the gym or even work out at home for foam rolling has immeasurable benefits. The best part is it can be added to any part of your workout and takes less than 5 minutes. So why aren’t more people utilizing this miracle pillar? I actually don’t know the answer to that one but in my honest opinion it is due to the fact that you can’t physically see the benefits and like anything else you need to be consistent.
Without getting into complex details about fascia, the myotatic stretch reflex and autogenic inhibition, I’ll summarize by saying that certain structures are prone to trigger points (spots of irritation in the muscle fiber) and breaking down these trigger points through foam roll release can help improve the quality of our soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia etc) and hence the quality of our movement.
The sensation of rolling will range from a gentle pressure to somebody taking a jackhammer to your muscles. This will vary from one area to another. I keep having to tell my clients (and reminding myself) that the more you feel it, the more you need it. That said, do what you can tolerate and build from there.
Try using the foam after a cardio warm-up (and before your weight training) or at the end of your workout. Either replace or add these exercises to your regular stretches that you do already. Although it may feel slightly uncomfortable, my personal experience is that I feel much better afterward and so do my clients. Just think of John Mellencamp’s song “Hurt So Good”. So my last question is simply do you foam roll?