Foam rolling is right, but you’re doing it wrong! Using a foam roller to perform self myofascial release (SMR) can be one of the most effective ways to recover from your sessions. SMR is the process of applying pressure with your foam roller or mobility tool to a selected area of soft tissue. It’s successful due to a number of reasons:
Alleviates Trigger Points – A tender area of tissue, or trigger point as it’s sometimes referred to, is a micro-spasm caused by over stimulation to the muscle spindle in that area. When you apply external pressure to the area it stimulates a number of receptors throughout the muscle, fascia and connective tissues. When these receptors are stimulated, they communicate with the central nervous system which provides an ‘overriding’ message to the trigger point that signals it to release.
Improves Sliding Surface Function – Your muscles should slide and glide over each other. Over time they can become glued up preventing your body from moving effectively. SMR on a foam roller will help iron out this matted up tissue.
Blood Flow – Foam rolling will encourage fresh blood flow to the area of tissue you’re working on. This will help flush out post-exercise waste products and bring a wide range of nutrients for a speedy recovery.
These days most serious fitness facilities will have some form of foam roller available and most serious gym goers will use them. However, there are a few key mistakes that are commonly made that you need to eradicate if you want to get the most out of your foam rolling. So here’s the five mistakes that are made when foam rolling:
Not Breathing – It’s a well known fact that foam rolling can be decently uncomfortable at times! As a result it can be very tempting to tense up and hold your breath. Breathing deeply during your rolling will help relax the muscles, enabling you to reach deeper layers of soft tissue and it will oxygenate the blood that’s rushing to the area you’re mobilising.
Not Applying Enough Pressure – The name in itself “foam rolling” sounds a little easy going. In order to create change within the tissues you need to apply a sufficient amount of pressure. Kelly Starrett, creator of mobility wod has the right idea. He commonly uses words like “smash” to describe the process of foam rolling and SMR. Make sure you’re getting enough pressure into the tissues when rolling. You can accomplish this by using a smaller/harder foam roller or by getting more of your bodyweight onto the tool.
Rolling Too Fast – If you pump up and down too fast, you won’t be able to spend enough time on the really gristly bits to see some change. A good guide to go for is to travel at an inch per second. Even slower if it’s a particularly tight spot for you.
Not Spending Enough Time On The Drill – To see some change from a drill you should be spending at least 90-120 seconds on it. Even longer if you know it’s a tight spot. I like to set my timer on my phone or watch for two minutes and then get stuck in!
Only Rolling In One Direction – Instead of just rolling up and down, you can also rock side-to-side on the roller. This is a great way to challenge the tissues and really shear them apart for even more change.