It still amazes me how many people are aware of the benefits of soft tissue work such as self myofascial release (SMR) and yet when I ask them how often they foam roll all I get is crickets chirping.  My next question is why not to which I am answered: I don’t have enough time.  If you have time to do biceps curls while standing on the BOSU and then 60 minutes on the eliptical then I hate to break the news but you have more time than you think.

I wrote a post several months ago about Foam Rolling For Health that includes links to proper technique that is worth checking out.  Today I wanted to reiterate a few of those benefits and go over a few more.  Just like any other exercise, foam rolling is a skill and now that it is finally being recognized by the media there are a whole slew of people just throwing themselves on the foam roller and flopping around like a fish out of water.

The importance of fascia and it’s interconnectedness to our physiology goes deeper than just a “Saran Wrap” that covers the muscles as I have heard it referred to as.  I hate this term.  People such as Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, have spent their lives focusing on “facial fitness” and relating this relatively new science to modern techniques.  Or is it new?  Ida Rolf began her studies on postural release, or Rolfing, back in the 1950s with great success.

“Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important, we as Rolfers™ must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spiderweb is in a plane. This web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole?”
-Ida P. Rolf PhD

Here are some of the basic benefits of using SMR prior to activity:

  • Decreases muscle tension via autogenic inhibition.
  • Breakdown of soft tissue adhesions.
  • Breakdown of scar tissue.
  • Provides greater benefits when done prior to stretching.
  • All of these help to prevent injury.

Some more benefits of SMR:

  • Increases vasodilation which facilitates nutrient delivery and waste removal.
  • Reduces tissue viscosity which can allow better quality muscular and joint actions.
  • Decreases sympathetic tone.
  • Improves respiration.
  • Decreases feelings of anxiety and fatigue.

Here are some general guidelines to foam rolling:

  • Roll Slowly.
  • Hold on tender areas/sore spots for 30-60 seconds or until discomfort dissipates by 75%.
  • Eliminate 2-3 sore spots per targeted muscle.
  • Keep pressure manageable.
  • Do 5-15 min before athletic activity and before stretching.
  • Do 5-15 min post activity to aid in recovery.
  • Perform on “off” days to optimize recovery and aid in tissue health.

Using the foam roller provides a cheap, effective and easy way to improve your soft tissue and overall health but just like anything else it requires your attention and time.  You should be able to experience some of the acute benefits immediately but it will take some diligence to receive the full benefits.  Improve your soft tissue to improve your posture and your health.  Believe me, your body will thank you for years to come.

Written by Steve