So, to start things off you may be wondering: what is foam rolling? I know it sounds like some strange type of art project, but it’s actually related to exercise and your muscles. Let’s get technical first:
Foam rolling, otherwise known as self-myofascial release (SMR), is a technique designed to lengthen and stretch your muscles at any time. Within your muscles, there is a receptor (known as the Golgi tendon organ) that responds to deep pressure and tension. When it experiences these feelings, it reacts by relaxing and lengthening the muscle, giving you a feeling of release. The foam roller can enable similar effects to that of a deep tissue massage—although that technique can work on smaller areas than the foam roller can—by breaking up the tension points and lengthening the muscles that are rolled.
You still may be thinking: “can’t you just tell me the benefits of foam rolling? It would be so much easier!” Well here are those benefits:
- Increased blood flow
- Better range of motion (in muscles and joints)
- Decreased chance of injury
- Faster recovery times from workouts (which can give you faster results!)
Now that we’ve established what foam rolling is, let’s talk about the “when” of it all. You can foam roll before or after a workout, or really any day of the week at any time of day (even if it’s a rest day!). This can help to warm you up pre-workout and stretch you out post-workout so that your muscles feel in tip-top shape. Yes, it will hurt in the moment, but you’ll be thanking yourself later that you did it.
There are a few limitations to the foam roller, mostly in that they cannot dig in to the smaller muscles on the body that are harder to target. But the good news is that you can use a lacrosse ball (or golf/tennis ball) to release the tension from such areas as the shoulders, neck (be careful!), and hips.
Below, you’ll find a few pictures demonstrating how to use the foam roller to work out some of those pesky kinks in your muscles. Also, if you’re looking to buy one of these fantastic tools to have in your own home, here’s where you can find one: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=foam+roller. They come in multiple different densities (white is typically the softest and black is the firmest) and designs (some are smooth while others have ‘teeth’ to really dig in), so make sure you choose the right one for you.