Written by: Raymond Elliott, ACE & NASM Certified GoTimeTraining Personal Trainer & Lifestyle Coach
nderstanding the concept behind foam rolling (myofascial release) requires an understanding of fascia itself. Fascia is a densely woven, specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all of the body compartments. How I explain to my students, it’s like Saran wrap around all the muscles. This will help later in understanding some benefits of foam rolling. The purpose of fascia is to surround and support bodily structures, which provides stability as well as direction for muscle fiber line of pull. For example, the fascia surrounding the quadriceps keeps the muscles contained in the front compartment of the thigh and keeps muscles fibers in vertical direction so that the line of pull is more effective to extending the knee( like in a seated leg extension exercise).
In a normal state fascia is relaxed and has the ability to stretch and move with out restriction. However with physical trauma, scarring, or inflammation, fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight and restricted. An acute injury, poor postural over time and repetitive stress can be damaging to fascia. As result can exert pain and movement limitations, causing binding as in like when serran wrap binds together. Foam rolling is like as rolling out dough with a rolling pin. Can actually realign the muscle and fascia from bundled position(called knots or adhesions) and relax the muscle tissue. Can also increase blood flow throughout the body.
- Can help prevent injury. By reducing tightness in the muscle. Foam rolling ensures you are massaging away fascia buildup in your muscles, in order to help prevent those areas from becoming injury trigger points for injury. Great for IT band that is a common problem area for runners. Can also increase blood flow to the tissue to help with repair of injury.
- Can increase performance. A person who uses the foam roller on the legs, back, arms, and shoulders, he or she will have more oxygenated blood circulating throughout his or her body, and this can help him or her perform better. A person that has increased blood flow will also be able to concentrate more, and he or she will notice his or her stamina increase as well.
- Can increase range of movement. By relaxing tension and the restriction of bundled fascia. Allowing for better joint movement.
- Can increase strength. By relaxing the muscle. This may align muscle fibers in optimum position for greater muscle contractions. Increasing their force and strength.
- May correct poor posture. Due to muscular imbalances (over tight and over stretched muscles). By reducing tension in the muscle allowing it to return back to its neutral position. For example; rounded shoulders. Foam rolling the pectorals muscles may relax the tightness in pectorals allowing the shoulder to return back to their proper and neutral position.
- May help alleviate pain. For example; foam rolling hip flexors can stretch the hip flexors, which can help combat tightness from sitting as well as lower back pain.
Note: The equipment that is used for foam rolling usually consists of a foam cylinder of various sizes; commonly 12 inches long, 6 inches in diameter. However, longer foam rolls up to 36 inches in length are produced for rolling over certain muscles in the back.
A variety of foam roll densities also exist. People who are new to foam rolling, or those who have particularly tight muscles or severe trigger points often start with a softer foam roll. The color can often help to distinguish the density. White rolls are typically softer, while blue and black rolls tend to be harder