Outside the gym, we put our bodies to the test. We lift heavy things, sit for long periods, play on our phones with poor posture, and try new things our body isn’t trained for.
You may have heard of foam rolling or myofascial release, especially in the gym. The reason people don't do it is usually because they don’t know why (or how!), and it’s often uncomfortable. Please read on, I promise there’s a point to it!
Why should I roll?
Basically, fascia is a spiderweb of fibers that are woven through every part of the body that “glues” everything together. Fascia helps keep your muscles, tendons, organs, and veins in the right place, so your body can function properly. If there is stress or damage, the fascia becomes tight, sore and inflamed, and it restricts movement.
The effect of rolling on pelvis position is a great example of the benefits of rolling. Fascial tightness is very common in the hips, especially at the front. When we walk we create tension in our hip flexors, and if we do not release this tension before we sit, the tight hip flexors can tilt your pelvis forward and cause pain in your lower back. If your pelvis naturally tilts forward when you stand, this could be happening to you! If so, foam rolling and myofascial release can help promote muscle repair and release tension!
How does it help?
Rolling before a workout can help improve function, while rolling afterward can promote recovery. Using a foam roller or other mobility tools, putting pressure on 'trigger points' can help break up knots in muscles to help promote blood flow and restore flexibility and function.
Rolling can also improve posture and restore the body to a neutral position. For example it is common for people to have rounded shoulders caused by tight muscles in the neck and chest. A combination of rolling out the tight muscles and strengthening your back can straighten you out, which can reduce headaches, and protect the joints in your spine.
How to Foam Roll
Despite the many benefits, a lot of people avoid foam rolling or mobility work because it can be painful. In some cases, you are literally tearing apart layers of fascia in order to break up scar tissue. However, the long term benefits are definitely worth the short term pain.
The actual process of foam rolling is quite easy. Using a foam roller or lacrosse ball, put intense direct pressure on the ‘knots’ for 20-45 seconds to help the muscle to release and return to normal. Your muscles often tense up to protect themselves when you move quickly, so slow predictable movements are more likely to relax the muscle. Kelly Starrett suggests that it takes at least two minutes per muscle to have any positive effect, so make sure you take your time. An added tip- if you have an injured muscle, roll out the surrounding areas first before you target the injury itself.
Lastly, take your time. The muscle won’t release after one rolling session, so be sure to make it part of your routine. If you have any questions about technique, ask one of our trainers.