Foam rolling is a form of Self-Myofascial release (SMR) that allows athletes and gym goers to mimic the effects of a sports massage in the comfort of their own home using a foam roller. In the past this technique was mainly used by professional athletes however due to improvements in technology and increase of massage tools on the market, foam rolling is available for anyone who wants to release tension in their muscles.
The term foam rolling is used to describe many self-massage techniques and can be performed by using a:
- Foam Roller
- Massage Ball
- Massage Stick
- Foot Roller
- By Hand
These methods are used to apply pressure to various muscular trigger points throughout your body, which help to restore normal muscular functions.
Whats the Difference Between Self-myofascial release and foam rolling?In the world of massage people often use the term self-myofascial release (SMR) when describing foam rolling, however, they are not the same thing, as foam rolling is just one form of SMR – when done correctly.
But what is Self Myofascial Release?SMR is a self-treatment that comes from the manual therapy treatment known as myofascial release, in which small pressure is applied for a long time, using specific methods until a change in tissue occurs. The problem is, many enthusiastic (inexperienced) foam rollers frantically glide over a hollow cylinder in an attempt to create a change, which is not actually self-myofascial release. The only benefit achieved by this technique may be an improvement in circulation, however for optimal results foam rolling should be done slowly. TriggerPoint suggests the following:
- Rolling at a rate of 1 inch per second
- Performing Static Holds on tender areas
- Creating cross friction and dragging over the muscle tissue
So Why Should You Foam Roll?
The world of self-myofascial release (foam rolling) is vast. Foam rollers now come in a variety of:
The practice of foam rolling looks to improve the bodies fascial and neural systems that have been affected by dysfunctional, repetitive movement and poor posture. Your body then treats these poor movement patterns as an injury and begins the process of repair known as the Cumulative Injury Cycle.
This cycle shows exactly what happens in your muscle when you suffer a small injury. The initial injury leads to inflammation of the muscle, followed by muscle spasms. The soft tissue then develops small adhesions (knots) which affect us by altering our neuromuscular control and leads to a muscular imbalance.
These small knots decrease the flexibility of the soft tissue and can cause its structure to permanently change. Foam rolling (SMR) restores your muscles optimal function by alleviating these knots/trigger points (adhesions).
What are the Proven Benefits of foam rolling
There are many benefits of foam rolling and self-myofascial release including:
- Corrects muscle imbalances
- Helps to relax muscles
- Improves range of motion at the joint
- Improves the efficiency of neuromuscular system
- Improves tissue recovery and reduces muscle soreness
- Reduces the sensitivity of trigger points
- Helps improve skeletal muscle length-tension relationships
- Reduce depression and stress levels
- Improves athletic performance
- Decreases the overall effects of stress on the human movement system
- Improves circulations
How to Use a Foam Roller
One of the most common ways to use a foam roller is by applying body weight pressure across the foam roller in an attempt to alter the muscle tissue.
The pressure provided by your body weight temporarily obstructs the flow of blood to your tissue. When you release the pressure, a fresh flow of blood and nutrients is supplied to the affected area, initiating the recovery process.
The Top 3 Techniques Used for Foam Rolling
There are many ways you can use your foam rolling tools, each of which is said to mimic various massage techniques from around the world.
The main 3 are:
Rolling and Holding
This technique is equivalent to a light deep tissue or Swedish massage.
It is performed by rolling up and down the muscle, whilst taking deep breaths. Once you have rolled 5 times, find any tight spots and hold pressure on this area for 30 seconds or under pain reduces.
Pin and Move
This technique is believed to mimic a Thai massage and involves holding pressure on whilst moving the muscle to create a sliding effect. This movement and pressure massages the muscle.
Perform the joint movement slowly 4/5 times.
Cross Fiber Friction
The final technique is believed to give similar benefits as a deep tissue massage.
This involves moving your limb in the opposite direction than the muscle fibers (essentially grinding the muscle fibers across the foam roller).
Perform this 4/5 times.
See below for a detailed list of foam rolling exercises
Foam Roller Exercises
How to Foam Roll Your Lower BodyFirst ups, lets have a look at the muscles of the lower body that can benefit from foam rolling.
As you can see from the image, there are several muscles to consider when foam rolling your legs and a lot to learn to ensure you get the most out of your foam rolling sessions.
However, we have step by step guides to rolling every area, so prepare to improve your flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.
The key areas of the lower body are:
- Plantar Fascia (bottom of foot)
- Anterior Tibialis (Shin)
- Peroneals (outer lower leg)
- Calves/ Soleus (Back of lower leg)
- Quads (front of upper leg)
- Hamstrings (back of upper leg)
- Adductors (inner thigh)
- IT Band (outer thigh)
- TFL (Hip)
- Hip Flexors
Check out the latest blog posts of foam rolling your lower body:
Do you have tight inner thigh muscles? Find out how to reduce pain with a foam roller