The Hows and Whys of Foam Rolling aka Myofascial Release
Using a tubular foam roller to literally roll over tight areas of muscles and tendons is known as “Myo-Fascial Release”. While it seems counter-intuitive applying steady pressure to muscles and tendons with an emphasis on trigger points (areas of tightness and soreness) has been proven to be a highly effective method for improving mobility.
Since you are in complete control of the amount of pressure applied and how long it is applied you can customize the experience based on your level of sensitivity. Key areas to focus on include the hamstrings, calves, gluteal muscles, latissimus dorsi muscle, and even low back and hip flexors if done with caution.
You can use a tubular foam roller, and they are made in varying levels of firmness from soft to very hard. In addition, there are variations that include a textured surface of varying levels from small to large finger like projections. You can also use balls such as a lacrosse ball, baseball, or tennis ball in a similar fashion. NOTE: the smaller and firmer the object the more pressure it will tend to apply so proceed cautiously.
The technique is to position the foam roller on the floor (a firm but not hard surface is best). Then position the muscle/s you are targeting on top of the foam roller. For example, for the calf sit on the floor with your target leg extended so that it is on top of the foam roller with the lowest portion of the calf on top of the roller. Use your hands to lift your butt slightly off the floor to allow you to apply pressure down onto the foam roller. Then literally roll forward slowly over the foam roller paying attention to any trigger points where you notice sensitivity or tightness.
When you find one slowly roll back and forth on the spot until you feel it release. With a little experimentation you will learn how much pressure and speed work best for your physiology.
Self Myo-Fascial Release/Foam Rolling is a great way to start a workout and does a great job of safely improving mobility before a workout and is also great to do between workouts.
Contraindications to Foam Rolling
Pregnancy – during pregnancy ligaments become lax and pressure anywhere on or near the abdomen is to be avoided at all costs so best to skip foam rolling when pregnant.
Osteoporosis – soft bones and additional pressure are not a good combination so best to avoid foam rolling without a physician’s permission if you have moderate to severe osteoporosis.
Intervertebral Disc Issues – anyone with disc problems in their spine should be cautious with foam rolling because pressure in the wrong areas can create problems so again get guidance from a medical professional if you have an disc issues in your spine.
Inability to support bodyweight on arms or legs – foam rolling cannot be done safely if a person lacks the strength to support their bodyweight on their arms and/or legs.
For a pictorial guide of various foam rolling exercises to target specific body parts click here: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/foam-rolling/