In the recent past foam rolling has gained some serious popularity. It’s no longer shocking to walk into a gym and see people in complete agony and they roll around on an overpriced piece of foam.
If you’ve never foam rolled, I’ll be the first to tell you that at first it fucking hurts. It feels like someone is kneading your muscles like they’re some bread dough, and the person kneading them is the old baker who has done it for years, and treats his dough with tough love. You would never think that a piece of foam can elicit that much pain, but holy shit it sure does.
Why foam roll?
Foam rolling, or myofascial self release if we’re getting technical, is done to increase the blood flow in specific body parts, loosen up, and release trigger points.
It works by essentially “smashing” your fascia, or the sheathing around a muscle, which releases tension in that muscle. Foam rolling is perfect before a work out because the smashing not only decreases tension, it increases the blood flow to the specific area of the body that’s being rolled.
Another reason foam rolling is perfect before a workout is because of the increased range of motion the treated area gets. Because rolling relieves tension and increases blood flow to a specific body part, that body part can now move more safely through a larger range of motion.
Rolling previous to a squatting session can allow you to drop deeper into the squat, which allows you to get more glute involvement, making the squat a better overall workout.
It also helps by seeking out trigger points.
Trigger points are areas where your body has certain areas of tightness that are noticeably tenser than other places in the same muscle. These trigger points usually come in the form of knots.
The body usually does this as a sort of protective mechanism. Generally, if you’ve got a trigger point, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you need to get that area taken care of, and the trigger point functions by not allowing that body part to move past a specific range of motion.
Types of foam rollers.
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re usually about 6 inches in diameter, and pretty stiff. Some are as small as 12 inches long, whereas others can be as long as 36 inches. There are so many sexual innuendos to be made here that I advise you let your imagination run wild. It’s like a mad lib, but with foam rolling and penises.
They also have different types of material. Some of them are made with regular old foam. These are the best types for newbies to foam rolling. They’re a little softer, they don’t’ hold their tension for quite so long, and can be a little bit easier.
The middle of the road is a harder type of roller that is smooth all over and made out of either plastic, or a hardened foam. For most lifters this type of roller is going to work pretty well, because it’s hard enough to seek out various trigger points and get you loose, while still being soft enough to not make you hate your life.
The most brutal kind of roller is a rumble roller, or something similar. These rollers are very hard, and usually have some kind of knob pattern on them. These knobs function to help seek out more trigger points, and work deeper into the muscle.
These top of the line rollers are brutal, especially your first time on them. They also work extremely well. For the advanced lifters out there, these are usually the best choice.
A few areas to pay attention to.
You’re a unique little snowflake, but we all have certain areas that tend to carry more tension or are more prone to injury. These areas should get special attention when it comes to rolling.
IT band: Any runner/lifter has probably run into IT problems in the past. The iliotibial band runs along the side of the thigh, and is pivotal when it comes to squatting, running, or any other sort of leg movement. It’s also a notorious area for tightness and tension.
Rolling out the IT band before any type of running or legwork can pay huge benefits in getting you ready to go and preventing injury.
Glutes: Seeking out trigger points in your glutes with a foam roller may suck sometimes, but can be seriously beneficial in the long run.
Rolling your glutes can also help you hit deep muscles inside your hip structure like the piriformis. If you take care of these now, then you avoid running into any seriously debilitating issues later on. Be smart, and roll those glutes.
Upper back: The area around your shoulder blades is an area where most of us carry a lot of our tension. Where do you think about getting rubbed when getting a massage? That upper back area has a ton of tightness, and can seriously fuck you up because of it.
All that tightness can lead to terrible posture, inhibited back muscles, and hinder performance in the weight room by restricting the movement of the scapula. Spend an extra couple of minutes focusing on that area, and you’ll feel better for it.
If you’ve never foam rolled, I suggest that you get with times and start doing it before you lift. Forget the static stretching. That shit went the way of denim shorts a few years ago. Foam rolling is the new kid in town.