If you've been working out for any length of time, you may have heard of foam rolling before.
With all the non-sense and gimmicks that are in the fitness industry, it's hard to figure out what you should be listening to. Let me help you out and make sense of it.
This is one of those things that you'll want to take the time to at least to try out before you disregard it. The science is parsing out what specifically foam rolling actually does to have the desired effect it has on muscle. The mere fact the end result is as described is enough to try it.
When I first started using a foam roller, it was one of the weirdest things I had done up to that point. It was also one of the most painful as well. After some time, it became a little easier. It took less time to get the same result as when I first had tried it. The thing that I noticed the most was feeling more flexible and less tight.
I've used it before working out and after working out, and to be honest, they both felt wonderful. Personally, I don't have a preference, but some people go depending on what they are training for. So this might be something that you spend a little time with to figure out what you like.
What Is Foam Rolling?
If you've been working out for any period of time, you have more than likely seen, or at least heard of, foam rolling. It's nothing new, it's been around for a long time. Do you actually know what it is though?
We could start back in the early 1900s and talk about how it originated. Then ponder about how it was introduced into the weight lifting community. But, we're not going to do that. Let's just get right to the point.
It's essentially a form of self myofascial release (a term used to describe self messaging to help reduce muscle and joint pain). Of course the obvious difference is that foam rolling is using a semi-hard cylindrical piece of foam, while other techniques use something else.
The theory is that it helps increase exercise and training performance by alleviating muscle tension through compression. The exact mechanism of how it actually works isn't fully understood. However, there is enough data showing it efficacy that it would be beneficial to at least try it.
So what are the benefits?
Before we talk about the benefits, we first have to examine why we self myofascial release, like foam rolling, would even be used. When the body is under physical stress due to poor biomechanics, injury, or overuse, the body will typically develop soft tissue adhesions.
These adhesions begin from an inflammatory response that begins with the physical stress that I mentioned above. Once these adhesions develop, it becomes hard to maintain proper muscular balance due to impeded or altered neuromuscular control.
Once those adhesions develop, there are a few things that arise, though the biggest change is an increase in pain. People will some times develop decreased flexibility and muscle stiffness as well. By using a self myofascial release techniques, it's thought that the compression force breaks up the adhesions and allows for proper movement to occur. It's also hypothesized that the compression force also improves circulation, allowing for more nutrients to flow to impacted areas.
As a side note, these adhesions form in the fascia that surrounds the muscle, not in the muscle itself. Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds the muscle, it also holds organs, nerves, bones, and blood vessels in place. It basically provides structure for everything inside your body.
With all that being said, you should be able to surmise how this could increase recovery. An increase in nutrient flow through improved blood flow and circulation allows for tissue to repair more effectively and efficiently than without. Again, this should make sense. What might not be so obvious, is that as adhesions are broken up and movement patterns become more efficient, there's likely to be less damage to surrounding tissue during workouts. This means that the body can focus on repairing muscle (for the most part).
How to incorporate it into your routine
There isn't just one way to add rolling into your daily routine. As a matter of fact, you could even begin your day by doing it or end your day with it. Or you could add it in before your workout as a warm-up or after your workout as a cool-down. Each of these have their benefits, but you'll have to try one method and test it.
Over the years, I've found most people like to keep it around their workouts. However, those rehabbing from injuries or nagging body parts have found it useful to do first thing in the morning or right before bed. Either way, you're still going to reap some benefits from it.
Of course, there is one more way you could add this to your routine and that's by adding into your workout. Depending on what kind of workout routine you follow, you might be able to add in a few rolls in between sets. This allows for one continuous workout without having to set time aside for foam rolling by itself. You might even see an increase you some of your lifts.
Just in case you're interested in other resources
This is the time that you decide whether this is something you are going to add into your routine. At the very least you could give it a try and see what you think, what do you really have to lose?
If you still have questions, make sure that you post them in the comment section and let's see if we can get it answered.