If you have ever been in a gym, sporting goods shop or even the active aisle at Target, you’ve probably seen a foam roller. If you feel unclear about how to use one, you are not alone. While growing more mainstream, foam rollers live a mystery to numerous people and even trainers.
Foam roller workouts, also called myofascial release, is a form of massage that fitness-minded people do either before exercise to loosen up their sore muscles and their tight joints, or after a workout, to help muscle recovery.
Foam roller exercises and other self-myofascial release methods have become increasingly popular, and for a good reason. Partly that stems from a better understanding of the restorative advantages of soft tissue care, or massage. Massage can ultimately become cost-prohibitive unless you are an athlete or just have a few hundred extra bucks lying around, you probably opt infrequently for a massage as a luxury or a splurge more than a necessity.
Working yourself out on a foam roller becomes an affordable option to massage therapy. Those dense, round pieces of foam can deliver multiple advantages of therapeutic massage without the cost.
What Is Myofascial Release?
You might wonder what myofascial release means. Fascia is like plastic wrap that satisfies virtually every part of your body, comprised of collagen fibers that surround and penetrates your muscles, organs, and nerves. Fascia mostly keeps us together.
Of course, sometimes holding everything together can take a toll on your body. It’s no different for our fascia. Through overtraining, it can become sore and limited. Due to little tears that sometimes don’t heal accurately, adhesions form. If the connective tissue encompassing your muscle becomes limited, you’ll notice your muscles will also become restricted in their movement.
The myofascial release details what occurs when you apply tension to the afflicted areas to reduce adhesions and release tension, ultimately improving circulation and restoring the body back to its natural state. Foam rolling, myofascial release encompasses a broad spectrum of modalities including Rolfing, massage and the Graston technique.
5 Wellness Advantages of FoamRoller Exercises
While there are several reasons to include foam rolling into your fitness routine, let’s briefly look at five examples.
1. Increased flexibility and improved joint range of motion
For years, stretching was the standard method to decrease muscle tightness and increase flexibility before both working out or performing a sport. Recent research, however, shows foam roller exercises before an activity can lead to an increase in flexibility.
2. Better circulation
Because blood carries oxygen throughout the body, the right flow becomes critical to overall health. Among other speculations, a decrease in our circulation can lead to a whole host of problems like numbness in our limbs, impaired cognitive ability (the ability to think clearly!) and a weak immune system. Myofascial release can help improve circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may become restricted.
3. Stress reduction
Foam roller exercises can help decrease tension post-workout. One study found myofascial release can lower cortisol, your stress hormone that you want to dial down after a strenuous workout seriously.
4. Reduce exercise-related soreness
Whether you are an expert athlete or just a weekend warrior, you’ve probably experienced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Simply put, DOMS is the pain and stiffness in your muscles that can set in anywhere from 24–48 hours after an intense workout.
However, research finds foam rolling can substantially reduce the chances of that soreness creeping in so that you don’t spend the day after your first cycling class stuck on the couch wondering why your legs hate you so much.
5. Prevent injury
Treating an injury becomes much easier when you avoid it in the first place. Often is a constant routine of proper stretching methods coupled with foam roller exercises can counteract common injuries connected with tightness and overuse, such as iliotibial band syndrome and other common running injuries.
The iliotibial band (IT Band) runs from the top of the leg from your hip to just below your knee. It tends to be particularly susceptible to damage, especially in runners. One caveat: If not done properly, you can do more harm than good. Rolling on an already inflamed area can intensify inflammation, thereby giving you the exact opposite effect you are trying to achieve.