What is foam rolling and why is it so popular in the fitness world lately? You may think rollers are just another gimmick or a useless gadget but actually they have many health benefits if used properly.
Foam rollers are effective tools for physique-building, recovery and injury prevention. The mechanism behind the health benefits is called self-myofacial release, or SMR. SMR is an alternative medicine method which treats skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in the muscles. It is actually nothing new since therapists have been using this technique for years. To achieve the release, a therapist applies a low load, long duration dragging force across layers of soft-tissue in the body. After a period of time, the tissue becomes more mobile. Using a roller to perform this is a great alternative to a therapist.
The Benefits of SMR
Increased blood flow throughout, better movement and increased range of motion are all befefits of SMR that will protect you from injury and improve recovery times. They are an excellent addition to anyone’s workouts regardless of age and ability. Rolling can also increase your performance during training by improving your range of motion and circulation.
Where to Start
Start gently. For example you could begin by foam rolling your calves. Our lifestyles are ususally quite bad for the calves, we sit all the time and wear uncomfortable shoues with little support and women wear high heels. This means the calf is rarely stretched properly and its natural range of motion is limited.
Simply place one leg on the roller and the other leg on top of it. Raise the hips and slowly begin to roll to the knee. If you find an extra tender spot, stop and hold. After about 20 seconds continue to roll through the area four times. Then set the hips on the ground and rotate the leg four times side to side.
Other great ways to use the foam roller include rolling the quads and the upper back. Just remember do it slowly and carefully.
When Should You Roll?
You have probably already figured out that SMR should ideally be done before and after a workout. Roll before you even begin your warm-up or cardio for optimal results and preparation for physical effort. You will improve blood circulation and reduce any tensions. Rolling improves flexibility and range of motion which will make your workout more effective. Also, use rolling as a part of your cool down or stretching routine, post workout. It will enable the muscles to relax and recover quicker. Additionally, it will help replace the oxygen depleted blood with fresh, nutrient packed blood and facilitate growth.
You can roll for as little as five minutes and still you will notice improvement in your flexibility and range of motion. Rolling will help you with stress and tension accumulated throughout the day.