The benefits of Foam Rolling have been stated many times over by almost everyone in the fitness industry over the past decade. Almost everyone and their cat knows that Foam Rolling can be highly beneficial to help alleviate pain and increase mobility in the muscle tissue, and is something we should be doing for ourselves.
While the jury is still out when it comes to ALL the claims people have brought up about foam rolling (there’s a lot of research to be done), it should have a place in our fitness routine. The problem is, while we know we should be rolling out we don’t know how to do it effectively and efficiently. Today we break down some tips to help sort this out and get the most out of our foam rolling.
Before we begin on the good stuff, I do need to state that we should not be rolling directly on our joints, injured areas, and don’t waste time rolling out tendons. These are not areas we should be focusing on. Now back to our regular scheduled programming.
Rolling The Entire Muscle
The first faux pas of the day comes in a common occurrence of trying to roll the entire muscle at once. This can be seen mostly while we roll out the quad muscles; we try to roll all the way down and up our leg in one solid motion. The problem is that it puts us into some awkward positions, and doesn’t allow us to maintain the pressure we need on the muscle as we roll. Not only do we end up in compromised positions, but we also don’t need to roll the whole muscle if we don’t have to.
What we need to find is our sticking points; those points in the muscle where we feel tension in the muscle, and “sticks” as we roll it. These are the areas we need to focus on, and focus our rolling on. We don’t need to waste time rolling out the areas of our muscle that is already relaxed without additional tension. Let’s use our time wisely!
Rolling our muscles in smaller sections, focusing on our sticking points allows us to roll out more efficiently and effectively.
Learn to Relax The Muscle (And Breathe)
What’s the goal of foam rolling? Well, to relax the muscle of course!
So why are we spending so much time in a tensed position trying to roll out a pain point? Unfortunately a common misconception is that we need to put ourselves through excruciating pain to work through the sticking points. Now, that method works temporarily, which is why we feel good immediately afterwards, but long term it won’t fix the issue. You can’t expect to release a muscle that’s constantly tense.
What we need to do is apply enough pressure to stimulate (and not murder) the area, and actively work on relaxing the muscle gradually as we roll. At first it may be difficult, but after a few seconds and some nice deep breaths, we should be able to ease the muscle and relax into the roller. When we are able to accomplish this, we will see noticeable, and extended change in muscle tension.
The idea of foam rolling isn’t just about relieving muscle pain, but it should also be focusing on improving range of motion for the exercises we are performing. This means we have to add more movement than just rolling out the muscle. To get a more effective release we can add cross friction (side to side movement) to get deeper into the muscle tissue, and add movements that will both contract and relax the muscle.
For example, if we are rolling our quadriceps and find a sticking point we can stop, move our foot side to side getting deeper into the muscle, and then bringing our heel towards our glutes to contract the quad muscle (more pressure) and then relax by bringing the foot back down to the floor to relax the muscle.
This contract-relax method plays into the previous point as well and can help us relax the muscle tissue further. Win – muscle tension dissipates, Win – Range Of Motion and Win – Movement Patterns Improve.
Spending Too Much Time Rolling
The idea of “more is better” is way too prevalent in the fitness industry, and more is in fact (typically) not the answer. Foam rolling is most effectively done for a short amount of time, 5 – 10 minutes should be more than enough to get our muscle tissue feeling more relaxed, and increase the range of motion. After that point the change we can see in the muscle tissue is minimal. On that note as well, pick a body part, and focus on that! More focused rolling will lead to more effective results.
Keep it quick, keep it focused and get moving!
Give these tips a shot next time you’re foam rolling and see how noticeable the changes can be. There’s more to foam rolling than simply rolling back and forth on your muscle! For more help with your fitness program, follow the link below to learn more about Online Personal Training.
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