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Foam Rolling – Is it worth it?

In the past few years, we have seen a massive increase in the popularity of foam rolling … But why? Why has a bit of foam become such a popular piece of gym equipment??

Here’s why….

Foam rolling, otherwise known as ‘self-myofascial release’ or ‘self-massage’ is a technique used to increase our range of movement by increasing the flexibility in the muscles involved with moving that limb. This flexibility increase is said to only last under 10 minutes, however some studies have shown when a foam rolling programme is undertaken for over 2 weeks its effects upon the muscles can last long term.

So what is this ‘self-myofascial release’?

Myofascial release is a term that has been given to the ‘manual therapy’ or ‘hands on soft tissue release’, which facilitates a stretch into a restricted area of fascia in the muscle allowing it to become more pliable. The mechanisms for ‘self-myofascial release’ are at present unknown and much disputed, however the best current evidence leads towards a neurophysiological mechanism involving muscle activity for acute changes, which differs from that in which stretches are effective.

Benefits of foam rolling

So I’ve already spoken about how it can increase the range of flexibility for a muscle, but why is that so important? Well this can be important in many ways; by increasing your mobility, it will allow you to get into a better position when trying to perform certain gym exercises and help you go through the full range that the limb should and in turn maximising the use of that exercise. Also, by getting into a better position it can help eliminate biomechanical problems we see from exercises that are done incorrectly purely down to lack of mobility.

Foam rolling can also reduce pain caused by specific tight bits of fascia that could have been caused by muscle damage or over use. It is also believed that foam rolling can aid with your recovery with some studies have showing a decrease in time taken for muscle damage to repair when regular foam rolling is taken place, allowing you to exercise more frequently by reducing the pain of Delayed Onset Muscle soreness quicker (DOMS).

How easy is it to foam roll…. And how long does it take?

All you need to foam roll, is a foam roller (or a ball shaped object), a floor space and yourself. Place the roller on the floor between the muscles that is in need of release with your bodyweight acting as the pressure. This method can be used on any muscle with the general principles of following the muscle fibres, for example on the Quadriceps start from just above the knee all the way up to the hip.

It doesn’t take long either, as long as there is adequate pressure, normally 1-2 minutes on a particular problem area will release it enough to make exercising more comfortable.

There is a wide variety of foam rollers on sale….. So which one to get???

Now some rollers are literally just foam, therefore when you put your body weight down on them it takes the shape of your body part and you effectively just squash it. These types of rollers won’t give you as much benefit as the harder plastic ones. But it all comes down to you as an individual and how much you can tolerate. The harder the material the deeper into the fascia tissue you can get and therefore get better results.

So there you have it …. This seemingly pointless bit of foam really can benefit your gym activity in a positive way!!

So next time you’re feeling tight or a bit sore, grab a foam roller and feel the difference it can make.

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