If you visit a gym regularly you would have no doubt noticed more and more people sprawling out across a piece of foam tubing in various ways, sometimes looking like they are playing a game of Twister by themselves. And for good reason! This is a technique used as part of Self Myofascial Release Therapy (SMRT), or more specifically in this case, ‘foam rolling.’
When done correctly, foam rolling can be a very useful tool to relieve muscle tension and aid recovery. It may also offer the same benefits as a sports massage.
Lets take a closer look:
Foam rolling can prevent injury and help aid recovery.
Foam rolling is used to prevent injury, in rehabilitation, and as a recovery tool to help counteract the micro-trauma that takes place in your muscles during exercise.
Foam rolling breaks up scar tissue.
Breaking up scar tissue and adhesions between the skin, muscles and bones is crucial for a healthy body. When you foam roll, you put targeted pressure on your fascia, releasing trigger points where you’re feeling pain.
Improve your range of motion.
Foam rolling releases tension in the muscles, allowing the body to move more freely. This takes pressure off the joints and allows for more dynamic moves during physical activity. This is important for everyone from high level athletes to the weekend warrior.
Improve circulation and remove toxins.
The process of foam rolling stimulates the lymphatic system and helps push toxins out of the body. This helps with better oxygen delivery to the cells, improving circulation and rejuvenation.
Now that we know some of the benefits of foam rolling, I’d like to look at some common areas people should be looking to address…
Got knee pain?
If you have any kind of knee pain, remember, it’s more than likely NOT your knee’s fault. The knee is just a ‘link in the chain’ between your ankle and hip, and is usually the breaking point when there are other issues going on at the ankle and hip. Regular foam rolling of the Iliotibial Band, the thick tissue that runs down the side of the leg from hip to knee, may help relieve pain and discomfort around the knee joint, particularly if you experience pain across the front or the side of the knee.
Sore lower back?
Again, it more than likely is not the lower back’s fault, unless it’s something in the lower vertebrae itself, but more often than not, a sore or tight lower back is a result of a tight upper back. Funny isn’t it!? The upper back or, thoracic spine, has a huge impact on how free the lower back feels. The lower back is designed to stay stiff and rigid, like a solid base. The thoracic spine is designed to be able to bend, twist, arch etc. If it can’t, then the lower back bares the brunt of the upper back’s inability to perform those functions. To improve our mobility through the upper spine, we need to be regularly draping ourselves over the foam roller, placing ourself into thoracic extension.
What about your sore hip?
There is a good chance that a sore hip could well be due to the muscles of the hip being too tight. Think gluteals, quads and hamstrings. A flexibility imbalance is almost always asking for trouble at the hip joint. In theory, the hip joint has a huge range of motion, second to that of only the shoulder joint. Tightness of the muscles surrounding the hip will result in an extremely limited range of motion at the hip socket itself. Foam rolling of the gluteals, hamstrings and quads, will aid in improving hip mobility.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to include SMRT in your training regime. Especially after training. Setting aside as little as 15 mins can drastically improve blood flow to an area and thus enhance muscle recovery. Remember, as the saying goes, train hard, recover harder!