What Is Foam Rolling?
When you think of foam rolling, think of massage. You use the foam roll in conjunction with your body weight to produce the effects of massage. Rolling slowly over targeted area can create a deep tissue massage. The technique is formally called Self-Myofascial Release (SMR).
How Does It Work?
By elongating muscle fibers, you are also creating a physiological effect that produces a relaxation in the muscles. It also helps break down scar tissue that can build up in injured or tight muscles.
Why Use Foam Rollers?
Foam rollers can release tension and tightness between the muscles and fascia. Any sort of repetitive moving pattern, whether it's running or resistance training, can cause this tension and tightness. Foam rolling can improve flexibility and range of movement. Some studies have shown that rolling for even short periods of time can improve your range of motion.
How Is It Different From Stretching?
Stretching, put simply, is straightening or extending a part of the body to its full length. Foam rolling is used to inhibit overactive muscles.
Should I Do Both?
Foam rolling and stretching can work in conjunction. Once you've rolled your muscles, performing static stretches will lengthen them and the surrounding fascia tissue to create better quality of movement. Remember, poor posture habits can cause muscles to shorten and mold into positions you keep throughout the day. By working out the knots in your muscles, you'll be able to stretch them more effectively.
When Should I Do Them?
You can do foam rolling both before and after your workout to help remove those knots in your muscles. Other examples of when to use them include after your daily commute, after being at your desk all day (this will help keep your posture correct), and after sitting on a long flight.
Stretching is important before and after participating in sports, including your workout, and also after you've been sitting all day.
If you’re interested in using a foam roller, try out the Downtown Athletic Club’s foam roller class in Amarillo for an introduction to techniques.