Without realising, every day we put our body through stresses. Whilst you’re sitting in your car on the way to work or managed to find a seat on the tube, sitting at your desk for hours on end staring at your computer or slyly checking your messages on your phone (and somehow getting hooked on thousands of insta-meme’s).
Each day your body adapts to this lovely hunched back position, leaving you looking like an extra from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The answer: FOAM ROLLING! The concept sounds easy enough.
A cylinder of foam that you roll over on forwards, and backwards, and forwards again. You think to yourself, “I’ll jump on it for 30 seconds or so, roll around and I’m done!” Or is it so easy that it’s confusing? You’re really not alone. So, the Power Moves team is here to save the day. Massaging would obviously be the first port of call, I mean, who wouldn’t choose a massage over foam rolling? But this isn’t always financially affordable and post-workout foam rolling can help to prevent a build-up of muscle tightness and pain, working as a form of injury prevention. You’re hardly going to afford a massage 4 or more times a week, unless you’re Iron-Man and have stupendous amounts of dolla.
Foam roller exercise helps with myofascial release. Never heard of it before? Well, fascia is comprised of collagen fibres that surrounds and penetrates your organs, nerves and muscles. It’s kind of like a wrap, covering every part of your body and holding it tight. But over time, this tightness restricts our movements, especially when injuries occur, tears develop and adhesions rear their ugly faces! So, you want me to tell you why foam rolling can really be that beneficial to you? Challenge accepted!
Firstly, it helps to improve flexibility, increase your range of motion at the joints and works as a preventative for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Initially, stretching was the ‘go-to’ method to decrease muscle tightness, but sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. Due to the myofascial release during foam rolling, it’s a sure winner! It can also help to decompress your spine, wahey. Remember though, everything is temporary, so one foam roll session is not going to fix you forever or completely rid of those god awful DOMS. You can use foam rolling as a replacement to stretching or in conjunction with it. It’s said that the benefits wear off quickly and last around 10 minutes, but that’s most definitely long enough to foam roll out those triceps and upper back to get higher elbows and more flexibility for those front squats!
Injuries… we all hate them! Yet the best way to treat an injury is to prevent it occurring in the first place (you can argue how I’ve said that but you all know what I mean). A good routine of foam rolling can prevent injuries that are associated with overuse and tightness (e.g. iliotibial band syndrome and darn cardio/running injuries). However, if inflammation is your current issue then stay away from foam rolling. There’s a very high probability, if not a promise, that your inflammation will get worse.
Circulation plays a huge part in our day to day functioning. Why? Because our blood carries oxygen around our bodies which is vital to our overall health. It helps to prevent cognitive impairment (meaning you can think clearly), numbness in
our limbs and boosts our immune system. Therefore, foam rolling (or otherwise known as myofascial release) breaks up tightness in muscles and clogged up/restricted areas. Amongst all else, foam rolling helps to reduce stress. Studies have actually found that the release of fascia lowers cortisol (stress hormone), perfect for a post workout cool down!
Let’s start with RULES OF FOAM ROLLING:
1. BREATHE! Instead of holding your breath when you hit a sensitive spot or knot, breathe. Breathing is vital to delivery oxygen for muscle recovery. So the more you breathe, the more you recover. But please don’t huff and puff like you’re having an anxiety attack!
2. Joints and ligaments are for function and structure, LEAVE THEM ALONE! Your focus during foam rolling is muscles. The foam rolling will increase blood flow to the muscle and increase recovery rates. Foam rolling over ligaments and joints only has a likeliness to increase injury rates.
3. If you feel a nervy sensation, remove yourself from that spot immediately. Avoid nerves and know the difference between good pain and bad pain.
So, what are the best areas to focus on with the magical foam roll? Hamstrings and glutes, quads and IT band, upper back and spine, and finally the calves. Ideally, you be spending a minute on each area. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but as long as you’re doing it slowly, taking deep breaths, it’s long enough to make a decent impact without overdoing it.
HAMSTRING AND GLUTES
Sit yourself down on the floor with the foam roller placed long ways underneath your hamstrings. Your arms are going to be your support to hold you up and relieve the tension if it gets a little too much. Personally, I feel enough is never enough when it comes to the hamstrings, but each to their own! Keep your legs straight, but relaxed and feet off of the floor. Keep the movements slowly, rolling up and down your hamstring, from the top of your knees to your glutes. The glutes can also be sensitive, much like the IT band, so move slowly and BREATHE!
QUADS AND IT BAND
Much like any exercise, the way to improve is by single leg work, so start with either your left or right quad on the foam roller that is placed just above your knee (you should be face down at this stage). Begin to slowly roll up to your hip and then back down towards the knee. If you find a sensitive area or knot, staying still and applying pressure on it for 30 seconds or so will help to reduce the tension. Just please, please, please remember to breeeeeeeathe!
As for the IT band, it can result in knee issues and lower back pain (no-one wants their squats effected). If you have weak knees, you’ll also need to work on strengthening exercises, not just the foam roller (that’s a whole new ball game). Ensure that the foam roller movement begins on the side of your leg, at the top by your hip downwards towards the upper portion of your knee. You can use your forearm to release pressure if it becomes a little sensitive and overwhelming.
UPPER BACK AND SPINE
To hit that upper back area, the foam roller should be between yourself and the ground, placed horizontally in conjunction with your spine. Your hands should be behind your head, hips off the ground with your upper back weighted on the foam roller. You may also feel additional beneficial release on the back should you cross your arms across your chest. You should slowly roll from the top of your shoulder blades to the middle of your back. This exercise will help improve your spine alignment and posture.
They may be tiny (well, mine are anyways) but the poor little mites always get overlooked. Foam rolling your calves can help improve ankle joint mobility and prevent the Achilles’ tendon from rupturing. It can be difficult to place pressure on the calf, so place one calf at the top of the roller and your other foot on the resting resting to create more resistance. Ensure that your hips are lifted and your hands are planted behind you.
If you attempt these exercises as single leg work as a beginner, expect a lot of shock pain to begin with (depending on the firmness of the foam roller you’re using). As with anything, the first few times can be painful, but you’ll be alright!
REMEMBER FELLOW GYM GOERS… foam rolling is about relaxation and recovery. It is NOT a race. Take your time, get lost in the moment! Put on some 90’s R&B if you wish and drift away. Finally, is foam rolling a waste of your time? Or you could ask the question another way, are massages a waste of your time? I didn’t think so!
PMF Recommend: Rumble Roller
VIDEO – DeFranco, J. (2014). DeFranco: Best Way To Foam Roll. Retrieved from:https://www.onnit.com/academy/defranco-best-way-to-foam-roll/
Dr. Axe. (2017). 5 Ways Foam Roller Exercises Can Improve Your Workout. Retrieved from:https://draxe.com/foam-roller-exercises/
Onnit Academy. (2017). Top 5 Foam Roller Exercises. Retrieved from:https://www.onnit.com/academy/the-5-best-foam-roller-exercises/
Poliquin Group. (2016). Is Foam Rolling a Waste of Your Time? Retrieved from:http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1504/Is_Foam_Rolling_a_Waste_of_Your_Time.aspx