Foam rolling - why you should do it and my favourite areas to roll......
I can hear the collective groans as you contemplate the pain of foam rolling... Don't worry, I don't miss the eye rolls and the not so subtle protests when we bring them out at the end of a class... :) It's an apparatus we have a love/hate relationship with but deep down, I know you all appreciate how good you feel afterwards.... So let me share with you the physiology behind rolling and maybe, just maybe you will grow to love this poor neglected tool that sits idle of most of your loungeroom floors.....
What does foam rolling actually do?
Foam rolling is a self form of myofascial release (or massage). It relieves tight muscles, fascia and trigger points that stretching alone wont target. Whilst there is conjecture and inconclusive evidence about the benefits of foam rolling, when done properly it has been shown to have the following benefits: (source https://8fit.com/fitness/foam-rolling/ )
Reduce pesky knots. Intense exercise can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When you feel sore, you’re essentially feeling pain from microtrauma (tiny tears) in the muscle fibers. Oftentimes, as your body repairs the muscles, small knots form. Foam rolling helps align the muscle fibers and reduce discomfort as the body repairs itself.
Flush toxins. Another way foam rolling helps alleviate soreness is by moving lactic acid and carbon dioxide — toxins built up during exercise — out of the muscles and tissues, and into the lymphatic system.
Improve circulation. Using a foam roller before exercise gets your body warmed up by increasing blood flow to the muscles you’re rolling. So, if you’re about to do a killer leg workout, you’ll benefit from rolling those quads, hamstrings, and calves. In addition to warming your body up, the improved circulation from rolling helps muscles repair faster.
Help range of motion. Your range of motion often decreases during exercise and strength training. This is because as muscles grow, they constrict and shorten during recovery. Connective tissue also thickens and tightens in an effort to protect the muscles. Foam rollers aid in the release of tension, allowing muscles to lengthen and return to their original size. This, in turn, improves range of motion.
It’ll improve the quality of your workouts. When muscles aren’t restricted by tightness, the body can move with more ease and perform exercises correctly.
Areas I get the most benefits by foam rolling
My ITB - Iliotibial band: ITB tightness is very common and is often related to hip and knee dysfunction. Tight ITB can load the knee joint of the affected side which can subsequently lead to injury (such as strains or tears of the ACL). In your hip, it often is a sign of weakness in other regions such as hip flexors, leading the ITB to overcompensate and become tight. Consequently, rolling this region can relieve some of the tension caused by the above-mentioned problems. See the image below on how to roll the ITB. Note, you need to go all the way from your hip and then down to the outside of your knee - don't be afraid to spend some time on those 'knotty areas!
2. Glutes: I have had so many issues with weak glutes from knee injuries. For me, rolling my glutes sometimes immediately alleviates pain caused from impingement of the sciatic nerve which runs through the small piriformis muscle deep in your glutes. The glute muscles collectively stabilise the hip joint and enable extension and external rotation at the hip. They can be easily strained and so are a good place to roll. See below image and instructions of rolling the glutes.
3. Quadriceps: This huge muscle group plays a vital role in walking, running, squatting and jumping. As many of you have experienced, they often become tight (especially after leg day!!). It feels great to relive tension here through rolling and is no way near as painful as your ITB! I prefer to double leg roll (picutred below), using my forearms to roll forward and backward as leverage.
4. Calf muscles: This group of muscles is another area for tension due to the high workload we place on them. They primarily move the ankle joint however are also a secondary movers of the knee. You need to roll the soleus (located between the achillies and lower section of the calf muscles) and the 2 bellies of the calves (lateral and medial). See below.
5. Back: It feels amazing to roll your lower, mid and upper back on the roller. The tight postural muscles that run either side of our spine are a common source of tension. For those who sit at a desk, our posture can be affected causing imbalances and tension throughout your back. Spend time in your lumbar and lower thoracic spine (lower back) then your thoracic region (mid back) and finally your upper thoracic and cervical region (upper back).
Well there you have it - my favourite areas to foam roll! Please note that these are my self-prescribed exercises that I am sharing with you. Anecdotally, I get a lot of relief from regularly rolling however if you have any musculoskeletal issues, please see a qualified practitioner for ongoing advice. Otherwise, give it a go!