All about how to foam roll
Exercise • • 1 minute to read • By Pankaj Narsian, INFS Faculty
Author- Pankaj N, CSCS and INFS Faculty
Introduction to Flexibility
Flexibility is simply the total range of motion (ROM) available at a joint. And ROM is regulated by the extensibility of the soft tissues like the tendon and ligaments surrounding an individual's joint.
The primary role of flexibility is to reduce the injury risk. Individuals can improve flexibility using static active/passive stretches, dynamic stretches, and mobility drills.
Apart from the above, manual therapy helps to reduce movement restrictions by reducing the adhesions, also known as trigger points within fascial tissue layers. The methods under manual therapy include deep tissue massage by a professional masseuse, dry needling, electric massage guns, muscle energy techniques, and others. Additionally, all the mentioned methods are passive since the individual has to depend on a therapist.
What is Foam Rolling
Foam rolling, also known as myofascial rolling, is a technique (inspired by manual therapy) used to enhance the flexibility of the soft tissues via the myofascial release. Moreover, foam rolling is like a deep tissue massage that individuals give themselves by manipulating the pressure in a particular area using one's body weight to its advantage.
When individuals use a foam roller to stimulate and relax the tight areas, it is called "SMFR, aka self-administered myofascial foam rolling." Unfortunately, the foam rolling process is uncomfortable for some beginners, mainly due to the wrong roller density, texture, shape, and size. Thus, individuals who foam roll regularly may not like the process as much as its results.
How is a foam roller used in training?
With a specified starting and ending position protocol, foam rollers are used mainly on larger muscle groups such as hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, adductors, erector spinae, etc. Self Myofascial Foam Rolling (SMFR) involves movements back and forth over the roller, from the start (close to the trunk) to the endpoint. In the case of myofascial knots, the SMFR technique is concentrated on the specific site of the pain to provide sustained compression on the MTrP. If the rolling causes unbearable pain, the individual should locate the area and hold the roller at the specific position without any rolling.
When to use a foam roller?
After a five-minute walk on the treadmill, individuals can use foam rolling as part of the warm-up phase due to its influence on muscle flexibility which is highly beneficial and needed during a workout session. In addition, SMFR is also used to restore the right length-tension relationship in the muscles and boost recovery after a training session. Finally, some individuals have also seen benefits with foam rolling as part of a cool-down strategy after a long training session.
Are you buying your first foam roller?
The effectiveness of the myofascial rolling depends on the thickness of the foam roller. If the foam roller is too soft, the individual may hardly feel any compression. And in contrast, if the foam roller is too hard, it will be very uncomfortable to use it efficiently, thereby missing the benefits. So for a first-time user, an entry-level roller that's on a softer side may work well, and as the individual adapts, they can opt for a more rigid density roller.
The texture of the roller is second to density selection. The smooth surface foam rollers should be the first choice for most beginners. These rollers are not as intense and are less expensive than the textured ones. In contrast, the textured rollers mimic the hands of a
masseuse with knobs and ridges to work on the muscle trigger points and release the tension.
The foam rollers come in standard lengths of 12, 24, and 36 inches with 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Long rollers are better for the back, quadriceps, and hamstrings since they provide better stability and cover the entire area. While shorter rollers are suitable for use on arms and calves.
The foam roller is a must-have accessory in a fitness enthusiast's gym bag and makes for an excellent value for money. Individuals can find a good foam roller anywhere between two to three thousand rupees. And
individuals looking for more affordable options in the range of eight hundred to a thousand rupees can use PVC rollers in place of foam rollers.
- Sulowska-Daszyk, I. and Skiba, A., 2022. The Influence of Self-Myofascial Release on Muscle Flexibility in Long-Distance Runners. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (1), p.457.
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