Living a healthy lifestyle is important! No matter what exercise you have been doing, foam rolling is being touted as something that should be added to everyone’s routine. Practitioners of foam rolling will tell you that it can loosen up tight muscles. This makes it beneficial before and after exercising.
What Is It?
To understand how foam rolling works, we need to be clear about what products are used. In order to practice foam rolling, a rounded foam cylinder is used. The cylinder is used by placing it under the appropriate muscle, and then using your body weight to roll back and forth over the foam roller. Foam rollers come in many sizes and colors. While some have a raised surface with ridges or grooves, others are smooth on the surface.
How Does It Work?
Foam rolling is loosely defined as relaxing or warming up muscles. While a lot is unknown about foam rolling, there is a lot known about the human body! One of the most popular theories of how foam rolling works is related to fascia, a thin layer of tissue surrounding the muscles. Fascia encases the outside of the muscle with additional layers wrapped around areas such as muscle fibers and cells. Fascia is stiff, but it should move without pain. Pain and tightness occur when fascia meets friction through muscle tears or injuries. Foam rolling is believed to loosen up fascia so it can move more easily without creating friction. This results in your muscles feeling loose instead of tight.
Another common belief is that foam rolling literally warms up the muscles. Many people use foam rolling to get warmed up before a workout. Friction of the movement creates heat to warm up the muscle and fascia. Foam rolling is also believed to help with recovery since the motion and pressure gets blood flowing to the muscles to start the recovery process.
Benefits of Foam Rolling
Now that you know what it is and how it works, we can take a look at the benefits of foam rolling.
Loosens Up Tight Muscles
Foam rolling loosens up muscles so you feel less stiffness. If you have ever experienced stiffness, you already know how much of a benefit this can be for your muscles. This loosening up of stiff muscles in turn creates better flexibility and ease of movement.
Creates the Habit of Stretching After a Workout
Stretching after a workout, especially a rigorous one, is important for recovery and avoiding injury. Many people skip this step because they don’t understand the importance of stretching. Foam rolling is an easy way to get into the habit. When done properly, the benefits can be felt almost immediately.
Warm Up Muscles Before a Workout
When you work out without a warmup, you are more prone to injuries. Foam rolling warms up and loosens these muscles so they are ready to go for an intense workout.
May Improve Workout Performance
When your muscles are loose, you are able to push harder. This could be the difference between running your average pace and beating your personal record. Doing just about any form of exercise with loosened muscles can improve performance.
Allows You to Target the Right Areas
Another benefit of foam rolling is that you can choose to target one particular area. If your calves feel extra tight, you can spend extra time rolling them and less time on your other muscles that feel fine. Since different workouts target different muscle groups, it makes sense that you will occasionally have one area that is tighter than the others. Foam rolling is the perfect option for focusing on those areas in need of a little extra TLC.
Helps Speed Up Recovery
Foam rolling relaxes the muscles and improves blood flow. This makes it easier for the muscles to repair themselves. When you work out, you are actually causing small tears in the muscle which need to be repaired. The improved blood flow from foam rolling helps speed up the recovery process.
When muscles are tight, you feel stressed. If you have ever had a massage, you already know how relaxed you feel after working out all that tension in the muscles. While foam rolling isn’t as effective as a massage, it will give you a similar feeling of relaxation when you are done because the muscles will be loose and warm. This makes it a great way to unwind after an intense workout session or a long day at work.