Foam rolling hurts. It takes up extra time after practice and you look weird doing it. Still, this could be one of the most beneficial things you are doing for muscle recovery.
A foam roller is a large cylinder of compacted styrofoam. Seems simple enough, but this piece of equipment has taken the fitness industry by storm over the past several years, and rightfully so.
What’s the Big Deal?
Intense exercise creates micotears and swelling in muscle fibers. This is normal and when healed properly can create stronger muscles. If left in their post-workout state they can begin to impinge on nerves and vessels, which develop into adhesions and more serious and painful injuries down the road.
The superficial fascia is the soft tissue that is located just below the skin connecting the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. This is called the myofascial system. Without proper care this tissue can become stuck together, causing an adhesion. An adhesion can result in limited mobility, pain and soreness. No one has time for that.
Problems like tendonitis, muscle strains and tightness are all adhesion issues that can make training very difficult, and are common in martial arts. Repeated motions such as gripping, punching or holding focus pads can cause a lot of trauma along with kicking, takedowns and other frequently drilled motions. Because they are so common, the affects of the repetition are often overlooked.
Foam rolling is method of prevention and coupled with post-workout stretching, it will take your performance to the next level. That being said, it should not be used as a sole method of treatment unless instructed by a doctor or physical therapist. Most all injuries are worth checking with a professional when you are about to step into a locked cage.
Foam Rolling 101
There are endless compilations on the proper way to foam roll, but these are the basics.
- Apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using your body weight pressing down onto the roller
- You should roll slowly. The general rule is to go no faster than one inch per second.
- When you come across areas that are more painful than others, this is usually a sign that those areas need a little extra love, so just stop and hang out there for a bit. It hurts. That is normal. Relax.
- If an area is too painful, try and roll the areas below and above the specific pain to loosen the entire area.
- A good place to start is with the calves, while working up through the glutes and the rest of the body. Don’t forget to flip over and get the hamstrings and muscles on the both the inside and outside.
- Rolling over joints and bones is not necessarily beneficial, nor is rolling over your lower back.
Foam rolling should not take the place of your doctor, physical therapist or trainer. These people are professionals who can help guide your foam rolling practice to maximize your specific needs. Re-occuring pain should not be left untreated.