Foam rolling or “myofascial release” is a form of self-massage using a foam roller to break up scar tissue and adhesions that may have built up on soft tissue over the years. “Myo” is a prefix meaning muscle while “fascia” is soft fibrous tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels and nerves. By breaking up scar tissue and adhesion, not only will muscles react better, but blood flow can be restored or increased. By increasing oxygen getting into muscles, strength can be increased.
In studies, participants not only showed an increase in strength after using a foam roller, but also an increase in joint range of motion. An increase of 7 to 10 degrees was average, but some participants experienced as high as a 20-degree increase. In the physical therapy world, that is huge!
A foam roller is a round cylinder made out of well . . . foam. There are different types and they come in varying densities; some are even coated with a type of plastic for a harder surface and to increase durability. If your gym has some, try out varying densities to see what you like best before buying your own.
To demonstrate how to use a foam roller, here are two commonly used techniques to try:
Break Up Adhesions
If you are new to foam rolling, try this technique. Start out by lying on your side, with your foam roller positioned between the floor and your downward-facing thigh. With your foam roller perpendicular to your thigh, prop yourself up on your opposite free foot and same side elbow. By adjusting the amount of weight on your foam roller using your foot, roll back and forth on the roller from your hip to just above your knee. When you hit a painful spot, continue focusing on that spot by rolling back and forth over it. The pain indicates either an adhesion or scar tissue.
Increase Range of Motion
Lie on your side with your weight supported by your elbow and foot. With your lower leg supported by the foam roller, roll it back and forth from just above the knee to the almost the ankle. Just as in the above technique stop and concentrate on areas where you are experiencing discomfort or pain. Not only will this help increase knee range of motion, but it will also help your knee track better and stay more in line with your toes when doing squats and lunges.
There are many different techniques that target certain areas of the body. Googling “Foam Rolling” will bring up several websites that demonstrate the different techniques.
Not only does foam rolling feel good, but it will improve your fitness performance by increasing joint range of motion and strength.