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My PT told me to ‘Foam Roll’, but why and how?

Foam Rolling – what is it?

Foam rolling is a fairly new phenomenon but is becoming increasingly popular, as it is easy to use, more convenient and less expensive than some other options. It is a form of self-massage. Formally known as myofascial release, we know that ‘massage’ is a hands on method conducted by professionals used to increase flexibility and release connective tissue (fascia), it can decrease pain and inflammation and promote blood flow to the areas of low blood flow such as the muscle-tendon interface (MacDonald et al. 2013). Foam rolling or self-myofascial release can provide similar outcomes. It involves using one’s own body weight to apply tension while rolling a foam roller (or other objects such as tennis balls) across a muscle group (Mohr, 2008) stretching the tissue and generating friction between the soft tissue of the body and foam roller (MacDonald et al. 2013).It is important to understand that connective tissue or fascia is made up of fibrous connective structures not otherwise named that bind muscle together to ensure proper alignment of fibres, bloods and nerves and the safe transmission of forces across the whole tissue. Fascia responds to trauma such as injury, disease, inactivity or inflammation (MacDonald et al. 2013) and can tighten as a protective measure which can become a source of tension for the rest of the body. If connective tissue is overlooked and adhesions develop, faulty movement patterns can arise and the bodies nutritional, lymph and vascular symptoms as well as normal muscle mechanics (MacDonald et al. 2013) could be compromised. This can affect performance and wellbeing (Mohr, 2008).

Foam Rolling can increase range of movement especially in the joint, improve the function of connective tissue, replace deep tissue massage, promote optimal skeletal muscle function (MacDonald et al. 2013) and reduce adhesions and scar tissue (Mohr, 2008). It can also assist in the relief from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) experienced by recreationally active people and athletes (MacDonald et al. 2013). Foam rolling can optimize and enhance muscular performance and restore soft-tissue extensibility (MacDonald et al. 2013).

Foam Rolling conducted before Stretching- the secret ingredient of success

Foam rolling can be used in many ways; to warm up the muscles, for maintenance or for recovery. Evidence has suggested that foam rolling before stretching is extremely beneficial as flexibility is increased more than rolling or static stretching alone, due to rolling increasing the intramuscular tissue temperature (warming the fascia) and blood flow thus increasing the viscoelastic properties of the muscles (Mohr, 2008).

Not sure how to do it? Visit a Division Ex RollaFLEX Class, the new Group Fitness sensation appearing in any awesome gym:

RollaFLEX is a tension eliminating, mood enhancing, pre-choreographed group fitness class to music that smooths, lengthens and manipulates your muscles through foam rolling and yoga-inspired static stretching. The recovery, flexibility and performance boosting exercises will increase blood circulation, generate flow, improve posture, reduce scar tissue, increase range of movement and relax your muscles. RollaFLEX will leave you feeling revitalised, clear headed and with increased energy levels without ‘technically’ working out! It requires no experience or coordination, however it is not for the faint hearted! RollaFLEX is an essential addition to any training regime.

References

MacDonald, G., Button, D., Drinkwater, E., & Behm, D. (2013). Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise .

MacDonald, G., Penney, M., Mullaley, M., Cuconato, A., Drake, C., Behm, D., et al. (2013). An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Mohr, A. R. (2008/2011). Effectiveness of Foam Rolling in Combination with a Static Stretching Protocol of the Hamstrings. Cape Girardeau: Southeast Missouri State University.