Sunday, December 9, 2012

Foam Rolling Primer

Get Rolling!
 Written by Richard Tarleton

What is Foam Rolling? 
Foam rolling allows you to do the work of a massage therapist, kneading and working out tight and sore muscles, speeding recovery and improving balance, coordination, and flexibility.  Athletes and clinics have been using it successfully for years. 

Foam Rolling works by utilizing your body weight against the roller and gently "rolling out" with the grain of the muscle from one end to the other.  When properly performed foam rolling is a self deep tissue massage technique (Called Self-Myofacial Release) that mobilizes the tissues and stimulates circulation to the area, helping you recover quicker and keep your muscles flexible.  Depending on your goals, foam rolling may benefit you before and/or after your workouts.

What is a foam roller? 
A foam roller is a piece of extruded foam, much like a swim noodle but denser.   They are commonly 6-inches wide in diameter and can be between 1 and 3 feet long.  There are some "advanced" rollers that are textured or made of PVC piping, but they are reserved for those with dense muscle tissue (i.e. athletes). 

Rolling Technique is simple. 
With the roller on the ground gently place the end of the muscle you want to work on it.  Slowly start to roll back and forth with the grain of the muscle.  Start with small short passes at first eventually rolling from one end of the muscle band to the other. 
If you encounter any knots or hot-spots, back off slowly and gently roll to "bump" against it until you can make a full pass over it.  Each muscle group can be rolled for 30-60 seconds (performing between 10 and 20 full passes) or until it feels relaxed and mobile.

A gentle word of caution.  At first, using the Foam roller can be intense—and even painful—as any deep tissue massage can be.  As the tissue becomes more pliable over time, the pain will diminish.  Avoid putting too much pressure on joints, bony structures, and tendons.  Go easy at first.

Some exercises focus on balance and muscular coordination rather than self-massage.  With these exercises, perform each movement slowly and in a controlled manner.  The goal is to remained balanced on the roller.  Also, key note: Remember To Breathe!

Now that you understand what the goals of rolling are, here is a 10-exercise starter program for Foam Rolling.  Try each of these exercises before and after your regular workout.

These 10 exercises are the basics of foam rolling.  A personal trainer can help you decide if other exercises will benefit you and how to get the most out of your workouts. 

DISCLAIMER: These exercises are intended for healthy adults.  Perform these exercises at your own risk.  Consult your trainer, physical therapist, or doctor before starting a new exercise program. 


Source:  Hughes, Erin. "Foam Roller Fitness".  2002.

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