Does it feel like everyone you know is foam rolling these days? It’s not just hardcore athletes or those doing rehab exercises while recovering from injuries, so what’s the deal?
If you’ve been wondering if foam rolling is something you should be doing, you’re in the right place! In this article we’ll talk about the benefits of foam rolling and why you might want to start including it into your exercise recovery routine.
What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a technique for self-myofascial release, SMR for short. SMR works by reducing tension and tightness in the tissues and muscles. The idea behind foam rolling is that it can help with a whole host of things both pre and post workout.
You can add foam rolling to your warm up routine in order to jumpstart those muscles and get your blood flowing, you can incorporate it after your workout to aid in the recovery process, and you can use it on your off-days from exercise if you’re feeling extra sore.
The Benefits of Foam Rolling
Foam rolling, as with any method that helps aid in recovery from exercise, can be used as a tool in order to relieve tension and soreness post-workout, helping you to move better through your workouts as well as recover better afterwards.
Keep in mind that it is a tool to help you feel better, and the way in which you use it (before a workout, after a workout or both), how often, the pressure you apply, the foam roller you choose, etc - are all going to be a personal decision based on what makes you feel best.
Relieves Soreness and Muscle Pain
In the days after a strenuous workout, using a foam roller can ease inflammation and help reduce DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
But, is foam rolling better than stretching? Tight, aching muscles are no match for a solid foam rolling routine which can decrease your overall recovery time- meaning you get back to the gym faster and feeling better.
A post-workout foam rolling session can increase blood flow to the affected muscles right away, helping them begin the recovery process by relieving tightness and tension. Better circulation and blood flow brings with it important nutrients like a fresh supply of oxygen and glycogen to tired muscles.
These nutrients are vital when it comes to recovering from exercise as they help flush out the waste products like lactic acid that accumulate during a strenuous workout.
The faster that muscles receive the fresh nutrients, the better equipped they are to begin rebuilding themselves, and, you guessed it- recover and grow.
Improves Mobility and Range of Motion
Try using a foam roller before your next workout in order to warm up your muscles. The same release of tension and increase in blood flow that helps your recovery post-workout can also aid in the muscle’s ability to stretch and move better during your workout.
A warm up is essential to prepare your tissues, joints and muscles for exercise and a pre-workout foam rolling routine can do just that. It can help increase your flexibility, aid in overall mobility and increase the range of motion in your joints - all factors that play into not only a great workout, but help you avoid injury as well.
Aids in Relaxation
This last one is going to depend entirely on what generally relaxes you , but many people find the routine of foam rolling to be deeply relaxing not only for their muscles but psychologically as well.
It is still not entirely clear just how foam rolling accomplishes these feats, though the theory is that pressure placed on the muscle through the foam rolling technique stimulates signals to reduce tension within the central nervous system, much in the way that a deep tissue massage does.
The thing is, much more research is needed to resolutely confirm or deny these benefits.
Most studies that have been done to date are on small groups of 8-20 people and though the findings have been reassuringly positive, larger scale studies are necessary. Regardless, these studies have shown that foam rolling seems to do everything we hope that it will do for us, both pre and post exercise.