I have had my foam roller for about two years. It’s a Styrofoam cylinder about 6″ in diameter and 36″ long. It sits unused about 90% of the time. That is about to change.
Most people use foam rollers to alleviate stiffness and soreness in their major muscle groups after long runs or intense workouts. I know it helps me sleep at night if I combine foam rolling and light stretching beforehand. This is a great use of the roller. But, if you only use the roller after your runs, you’re missing out.
Dr. Mike Clark, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine says almost everyone is doing it wrong. According to Clark, it is most important to foam roll before exercise if you want to prevent injuries. Rolling your muscle before you workout addresses any muscle imbalances and reduces your chance of injury.
“If you want to get your body ready for a workout session, foam roll your calves, the outside of your IT band, your piriformis, your adductors, and your mid and upper back.” – Dr. Mike Clark
Foam rolling helps to break up the myofascial adhesions that occur in our muscles. This is something that stretching alone does not do. Massage therapists do this with their hands, but not all of us can find the time or the money for massage therapy. Instead, we practice what experts call self-myofascial release or SMR. Removing these adhesions result in freely moving muscles and increased range of motion.
“Foam rolling before stretching and exercising is like taking the parking brake off before you start driving your car.” – Dr. Mike Clark
Rolling post workout is also very important. It helps prevent trigger points from forming and brings blood flow to the area being rolled. Increased blood flow will bring nutrients and assist in repairing damaged muscle that your last workout may have caused.
Rolling involves short kneading motions followed by longer gliding pressure along the length of the muscle. Your own body weight applies pressure to the roller and can be adjusted as necessary by repositioning yourself. When rolling, if a problem area or trigger point is discovered, you should apply direct pressure to that point for 30-60 seconds. However, be sure to avoid rolling over injured muscles or directly under your joints.
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