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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Humans: Riders, by the very nature of their sport, plus day-to-day dealings with 500kg plus animals, frequently sustain a variety of traumatic injuries. Falls are one of the biggest causes of injury resulting in soft-tissue trauma, bone fractures, joint damage and sadly, although fortunately rarely, death. Riding is a high risk sport due to the unpredictable nature of the horse which is essentially a prey animal. In addition injuries can also easily occur whilst handling horses from the ground as very often hats are not worn in these scenarios.
So I am in joyous process of getting my mare back into work after her recent injury. It's never fun doing all the rehab, but bearing in mind she is 4 and recently broken, it is extra ‘fun’. So far we have walked down the drive on our hind legs, baled out round the field just as she got zapped on her bottom by the electric fencing (gardens are scary places you know) but our piece de resistance so far was when she spooked as I was committed to getting on (having spent 5min trying to get her to stand still). I got on, but sitting behind the saddle - such fun!!! Needless to say, I didn't stay on her for long. Like most of us I am strict with her rehab (or as much as I can be when she is isn't dragging me around the arena on the end of a long line) - walk work, trot work and then circles before progressing to the rest. However are we the same with our rehab?