Foam rollers are very popular nowadays. Places like Target and Walmart carry them. Grandmas and grandpas are rolling foam. Doctors are giving them prescriptions. What started out as a niche mobility tool used only by the most obscure fitness nerds has become commonplace. But if you want to get the most value out of your foam roller — and avoid any damage — you need to learn how to use it properly. It’s not as easy as “rolling”. It has an art. And a science.
But before we get into how to use a foam roller, let’s find out what a foam roller actually does (and doesn’t do).
What foam rolling does (and doesn’t) do
Rolling foam does not physically break the knot or muscle glue.
Foam rolling doesn’t lengthen the tissue like you’re making a flour slab. Research shows that foam rolling does not physically stretch or lengthen muscles.
Instead, foam rolling seems to relax the nervous system. It works through neuromuscular connections rather than brute force physical changes. After rolling the foam over an area while moving that tissue, your nervous system has determined that this is the right, safe range for you. Foam rolling gives you a small chance to set a new “safe” pattern. Instead of physical adherence, it is removing neuromuscular blocks and harmful patterns. You either reset the system and reprogram it, or leave it open for reprogramming with better movement.
It can also work through something called foam rolling Controlling harmful barriers to spread, Or DNIC. When a tissue hurts, it is because your nervous system has decided that blocking movement (through pain) in that area is safer and better for you than allowing movement in that area. But sometimes, the nervous system decides to dull the pain because it is safer and better for you than staying motionless. Consider a soldier a big wound in battle. She is seriously injured, but extreme pain will prevent her from going safely. The nervous system dulls the pain so that it can bring it back to life. Foam rollers can do something similar.
How to use a foam roller
Relax in the roller; Don’t stress.
It can be difficult to stop because by its very nature, rolling foam is uncomfortable. Painful, even. But here’s what happens when you have tension: Your body struggles with the healing effects of the foam roller on you.
You should be able to breathe easily and naturally. If you are holding your breath, it indicates a stress response. You are probably going too hard or too tense.
Don’t abuse. Don’t grit your teeth. Try to smile, or at least maintain a neutral facial expression. External manifestations of pain and discomfort will register with your nervous system. What you are trying to do here is reassure your body that you can handle the pain, the pain is not so bad and the tissues may start to feel better.
Stay in one place until it stops hitting.
If you’re running through your foam rolling session, avoiding areas because they “hit too hard”, you’re missing the point. Instead of avoiding pain, you need to find out and sit down with the pain. Once you find a soft spot, stay there for at least a minute or until the pain subsides.
Explore the range of motion while sitting in a soft place.
When you roll your quads and find a tight, soft spot, stay in that position and then stretch and flex your knees through full range of motion. This seems to make foam rolling more effective if you are on the scene with zero movement through the knees.
Focus on one large area per session.
You are not going to hit your whole body effectively in a single session. There is not enough time for this. Instead, focus on one big part – your legs, your glue, your calf, your hamstrings, your pecs, your thoracic spine – and do a great job there. Be thorough and take your time. You can focus on other sections during the next session.
Do not roll bone foam.
Bone foam should not be rolled. It doesn’t help. It’s completely meaningless. Rolling foam is intended only for soft tissue applications.
Do not roll your spine.
You can and should flex the lumbar muscles running on either side of your spine, but your actual spinal column should not roll by itself. As a bone, it does not respond well to foam rolling and it can actually irritate and hurt you.
Foam roll not pain site; The foam rolls the tissue around him.
If your knee hurts, rolling the foam knee itself probably won’t help. When you hit your calf, rolling the foam to the calves is not the answer.
You need to go up and down the affected tissue. Keep rolling the tissues around the sore spot, working your way up and down until you find the soft spot.
Use a lacrosse ball (or two taped together) to reach difficult areas.
Foam rollers do not work well on every muscle or tissue. Specific points on the hamstrings, TFL, pecs, and thoracic spine respond better to the lacrosse ball. They offer more direct, targeted pressure and can really get deeper there.
Foam roll Before Workout to increase the range of motion.
Foam rolling before your workout is good for speed and range of performance, especially if you take advantage of the open “movement window” and move. Foam roll, drill some mobility to take advantage of the window, then go to training.
Foam roll Later Workouts to reduce muscle pain and improve performance.
Studies show that foam rolling after training reduces subsequent muscle pain and maintains performance (where it would otherwise be damaged). I find that foam rolling is very effective for athletes who need to return to training quickly after a workout or competition.
But overall, if you remember all these ideas, rolling foam is quite easy and very versatile. Happy rolling!
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