Foam rolling has been around for quite a few years, but has spread massively, from being used by professional athletes and rehab patients, to anyone who is active. But what is it, and why is it so popular?
Rolling is a form of myofascial release, helping to release trigger points and areas of muscles that are tight, due to a range of reasons - every day life, exercise, posture, weaknesses, nutrition, flexibility, lifestyle and hydration to name a few. It can be a little painful, but unlike deep tissue massage, you are in full control, allowing you to decide where is best to roll, and what pressure you can bear. It doesn't replace regular sports massage, but it helps keep you in tip top shape between sessions.
So why would you inflict pain on yourself? Simple, it has so many benefits
- It reestablishes full range of movement in a muscle
- To become pain free
- It aids recovery
- It enhances performance
- It flushes out toxins as you increase blood flow to areas you roll
But surely you could just stretch? You could, but it is not as effective for a few reasons - firstly the body has over stretching mechanisms within the body, that can reduce the efficiency of stretching, and secondly, not all muscles are easy to stretch at the right angle. Foam rolling works by compressing the muscles, causing the trigger points to break up as the adhesions between muscle layers are released.
Where to start.
Firstly you need a foam roller. There are a multitude available nowadays, from simple foam rollers to bumpy ones etc. My favourite is The Grid (made by trigger point). It maybe a little bit more expensive, BUT it has lasted years, with a fair amount of rolling on it. It has the right sort of bumps, that give enough pressure, but not too much, and it is hollow, allowing you to grip hold of it during certain rolling techniques. However there are plenty of others on the market. I regularly suggest others to clients, by simply going on to Amazon, typing in foam roller, and seeing which has the best review at the price I wish to pay. You can easily pick up an excellent one for around £15, and believe me it is worth every penny.
You can roll pretty much most muscles, but be careful around joints and the lower back. Rolling uses body weight to get into the muscle, so you can control the pressure by simply controlling how much body weight you place on the roller and what speed you roll - the slower the more painful, ideally pausing and doing small movements around trigger points.
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I recently suffered a hamstring tear, luckily quite a small one. I am the world’s worst patient, and hate being off games, so I was keen to find out if I could have avoided it. And the answer was yes, stretch more. If you have ever met me, you will know that flexibility is not my strong point. However I felt that I stretch quite a bit - 10min at the end of every session I teach, which I thought totted up to a fair bit. However, Andy, my lovely physio highlighted that the ratio of stretching to working out was out of sync, with too little stretching in my daily routine. Now like most of you, I don't have much spare time in a day - work, horses, kids, house to run etc, so it got me thinking how could I include some essential stretches as part of my every day routine, with life cues reminding me to do them. So here is how you can do the same