Some of you have heard of it or even done it. For some of you, it is a new concept: foam rolling.
A foam roller is a cylinder of foam that you lay or lean on to facilitate SMR (self-myofascial release). SMR is used to break up adhesions, which areknots that form in soft tissue that decrease elasticity of soft tissue. SMR retrains the nervous system and fascia, soft tissue part of connective tissue, creating benefits like correcting muscle imbalances (length-tension relationships), creating better neuromuscular efficiency, decreasing joint tension, and increasing injury prevention.
SMR is when you apply pressure to a knot and that pressure relaxes and changes the knot (bundled muscle fibers) to a straighter, more relaxed, position. When the fibers lay straighter, excessive tension on the joint is released.
Using a foam roller to apply the pressure, you must hold the tender spot for a minimum of thirty seconds to cause the muscle to relax.
It is easy to spend a lot of time foam rolling, so if you're on a time crunch, pick two spots for each section of your body being foam rolled. For example, if I am foam rolling my calves, I will pick the two most painful knots to roll, even though I might have three or four knots. You also need to be careful not to put too much pressure on a really tender knot or it might cause the opposite effect and the muscle will tighten. On a pain scale from 1 (least painful) to 10 (most painful), you don’t want to exceed about a level 7. Click here for a chart on foam rolling!
SMR can be incorporated into any part of your flexibility training, coupled with whatever stretches you are using—be it static, active or dynamic stretches. Foam rolling can be used before and after exercising. It is advised to foam roll before doing static stretches and before activity.
Feel free to share your tips and tricks found in your personal experiences with a foam roller in the comments below!