Today we are going to talk about an important and often neglected subject: Foam Rolling. Face it guys, weight lifting is fun. The feel of the iron knurling in your hand, the weight moving, the muscles exploding, the dopamine and adrenaline rush…shit, even if it didn’t carve your body into a complex of well-defined muscles it would still be worth doing. Foam rolling isn’t nearly as sexy, but it is something that everyone who has the iron in their hands should learn about.
So what is foam rolling? Well, it is a self-myofascial release. Why does that mean? Well, broken down, mayo- means “muscle” and fascia” is a soft, fibrous tissue that surrounds the muscles, blood vessels and nerves allowing mobility and giving support and protection. So foam rolling, a self-myofascial release, is simply a way to release tension in the fascia around the muscles and the muscles themselves.
Why do you need this? Well fascia becomes tight through overuse and make no mistake we are over using it. When the fascia becomes tight, it results in inflammation, pain, muscle tension, blood flow reduction and lost mobility.
Enter foam rolling. Foam rolling is kinda simple at first glance. You take a foam cylinder and press it against trigger points to put pressure on them. When you hold these pressure points, your body will eventually relax the areas causing pain and soreness to dissipate. This is known as releasing
By releasing fascial and muscle tightness, you help not just to reduce soreness and inflammation, but restore blood flow. This is where we should be paying very close attention. Blood flow is the name of the game in bodybuilding. There are a billion things on the market promising to increase blood flow. The reason is because the blood rushing to the muscle. Blood rushing to the muscle is the whole game when it comes to muscle strength and growth. Don’t bother with some pills in a bright colored bottle promising to give you some form of blood rage. Grab a foam roller and actually do some work.
Another benefit of foam rolling is that it will, over time, help to increase the range of motion. When you increase the range of motion you increase the amount you can work your weights which will increase your gains. Further, because of the better blood flow you are better removing metabolic waste from the tissues which will help with muscle repair (muscle repair also known as the act of growing larger, stronger muscles).
So how and what should be foam rolled? Well, the number one for me is the IT band foam roll. If you are squatting on the regular, and if you are on #teambeater you are, then you are going to have some issues with you IT Band. Also, if you are doing deads on the regular, and you are, then you should be rolling your hamstrings. Also, make sure you are hitting your piriformis whenever you are doing either squats or deads.
I was going to list a whole section on different foam roll moves and techniques, but honestly the one on bodybuilding.com is excellent so I will just link to it below. It will give you the name of the rolling technique and the muscles it hits. What you should be doing is picking each of the relevant moves for the day’s workout and spending 5-10 minutes on them. For instance, if you are hitting legs you want to do the Iliotibial Tract-SMR, Piriformis-SMR, Calves-SMR, Hamstrings-SMR and Lower Back-SMR.
If you follow the link through on the movement, it will take you to detailed pictures, an explanation of proper form and a video.
There is an excellent chance that your gym already has foam rollers. They come in many forms. Some smooth and some textured. When starting out go for simple smooth ones. Eventually you can move to the textured jobs. The simplest form is easy and inexpensive.
In a pinch, you can even use a bit of PVC pipe. Just find one that is about 6 inches in diameter and go at it. Some people will use a tennis ball or even a baseball to target trigger points, but I have not had luck with that in the past. Your mileage may vary, but it isn’t for me.
A bit of warning, this will hurt a bit at first. My best advice for dealing with that pain is not being such a pussy. Add foam rolling to your workout days. Your workouts are hard and you are putting everything into it. Why not spend a few extra minutes to make sure you maximize the results of your work.