Foam Rolling With Jack

Many of you may have seen one of these popular ‘recovery wonder tools’ floating around at the gym or home. You may have even tried it yourself. However, if you are ready to rock and roll do you know what it does and how to use it effectively?

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What is foam rolling and how do I include it in my workout? 

Foam rolling simply put is a form of self-massage using (but not limited to) a long foam tube. This form of self-massage is usually recommended to do either before or after a workout.

To foam roll you apply pressure to the muscle you would like to roll using your bodyweight (start gently first) and slowly continue applying pressure to that area, usually for period of 30 – 90 seconds. You should have a mild feeling of discomfort, similar to that of a massage. However it should not feel too painful! Avoid rolling directly over joints (eg. Knees and elbows), bony structures and fascia (Please do not roll your ITB or I will roll my eyes [insert rolling pun here]). Foam rolling is shown to increase flexibility, improve blood flow and can even improve lifting performance in some cases.

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Well doesn’t stretching do the same thing? Not quite!

Studies comparing static stretching to foam rolling have found that although both produce the same increase in joint range of motion (or in other words improved flexibility), stretching results in a short term reduction of force production from the rolled muscle, whereas rolling did not. The take home message. Foam rolling appears to be a more useful warm-up tool than static stretching (Static stretching immediately before a work out is not recommended).

So how does foam rolling actually work?

So the fun part of foam rolling, just like most forms of massage is that no one knows the exact reason for why it works. A popular and likely theory is that foam rolling affects pain modulation areas of the brain and nervous system. In short, by introducing the pressure and slight discomfort of the roller to a ‘sore’ or ‘tight’ muscle, the brain suppresses activity that causes stiffness in that muscle. However this effect is only short term. There are other proposed mechanisms, but this mechanism appears to be the most evidence based.

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In summary…

Is it mandatory to roll? No. However if you feel it improves your workout then go for it! If you are still unsure about how to use the foam roller then make sure to ask one of your friendly Shed personal trainers to give you a hand.