Fascia is a connective tissue that connects and innervates every cell within your body. It is made up primarily of collagen. Due to this, when it works properly fascia is elastic and can stretch and move as one. It is important to keep muscles and fascia supple and elastic in order to facilitate proper muscle movement and function.
However, intense workouts, poor posture or movement patterns, stress, and lifestyle factors, can cause fascia to tighten and become dehydrated and stiff, restricting movement and even causing pain.
Direct pressure from a therapist, or a tool like a foam roller, or even a lacrosse ball, is often needed to release tight muscles and fascia.
Benefits of Foam Rolling
1. Improves Range of Motion & Performance
Exercise, injury, and lifestyle can cause your fascia to tighten and cause trigger points, or “knots”. These knots are what restrict both mobility and performance. Foam rolling can break up those knots and return muscles and soft tissue back to normal, increasing range of motion. With an increased range of motion, you can perform better and fully engage muscles to increase strength and power.
2. Relieves Muscle Soreness and Aids in Recovery
Fascia provides your muscles with support and protection. Overuse, injury, and even inactivity can cause fascia to dehydrate and tighten, causing inflammation and irritation. Foam rolling increases circulation to your muscles and connective tissues binging more oxygen to the area. Increased oxygen means faster recovery and less muscle soreness.
3. Relaxes Muscles
Foam rolling applies direct pressure on tight muscles and knots helping them to relax. “Rolling” over your muscles and trigger points produces a similar effect to the effect that a massage therapist creates when kneading your muscles.
4. Prevents Injury
Foam rolling removes any restrictions in your fascia and restores normal function. It is often useful to think of the fascial web like a knitted jumper, if there is a restriction in one area this creates a pull throughout the whole kinetic chain. This can cause forces to collect inappropriately and create huge pulls in certain areas and a complete lack of tension in others. Collectively these inappropriate forces greatly increase your risk of injury.
5. Correct Muscle Imbalances
Because foam rolling removes any restrictions in your fascia it allows your muscles to function normally. Correctly functioning muscles will build up in a balanced manner.
6. Can Boost your Immune System
A healthy myofascial system directly correlates with a healthy immune system. Your lymphatic system detoxifies your system and keeps it healthy. Lymph, or lymphatic fluid, runs along the facial plane of your body. When the fascia in your body are tight, it restricts the movement of lymph. Foam rolling will release tight fascia, allowing for proper detoxification and immune function.
Warning: Foam Rolling Won’t Feel Great…
Foam rolling can be painful, and that is ok. You are in control and can, and should, ease off if it all becomes a bit too much.
Foam rollers come in different densities, it is important to choose the correct roller for you. The harder to roller, the more painful it will be. When starting a foam rolling program, choose a softer roller (usually coloured white or light blue) and start there.
Once you have been foam rolling for a little while you may need to progress to a harder roller to get the same improvements as before.
As soon as you move off of the foam roller, the muscles you were working on should stop hurting and actually feel relieved and more relaxed.
Tips for Foam Rolling
- Roll each muscle group for 1-2 minutes and roll very SLOWLY. When you hit a tight spot that is painful or uncomfortable, HOLD on that spot for up to 90 seconds. You should feel the tension release slowly.
- Make sure to keep breathing, even when it’s painful. Holding your breath won’t allow the muscles to release and relax.
- Be sure to RELAX the muscle as best you can. If you are flexing or tensing the muscle group you are trying to roll out, you won’t feel the trigger points you need to release.
- Drink plenty of water for the next 24 hours. Your body needs to rid itself of the toxins released after rolling.
- The next day your muscles may be a bit sore. That’s normal, they should feel slightly fatigued and possibly a tiny bit tender. Wait 24-48 hours to foam roll again if you’re sore.
- Never roll over a joint and DO NOT roll your lower back. When rolling your upper back be careful not to roll directly over your spine. Instead always roll one side of your back at a time by leaning slightly to that side. This is because there are small knobs on your vertebrae, called facets, that can be damaged if rolling directly on your spine.
- If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area.
Full Body Foam Rolling Routine
Lay facedown with the bottom of the foam roller angled away from you, and your arm extended out to the side over it. (The foam roller should rest in the crease of the front of your shoulder.) Lift your stomach and hips off the floor to press your weight into the foam roller. Roll forward and backwards a few inches over your chest and your front shoulder muscles. Repeat on the other side.
Lie on your RIGHT side with the foam roller just under your armpit and your RIGHT arm extended over the roller. Bring your LEFT leg over and place your foot on the ground for support. Press all of your weight into the foam roller and roll along the RIGHT side of your torso from your underarm to the bottom of your rib cage, and then roll back up. Repeat on the other side.
3. Thoracic Spine
Lay with the foam roller in the middle of your back across your shoulder blades. Clasp your hands behind your head for support, but don’t pull on your neck. Shift slightly to your RIGHT side and lift your hips off the ground to put as much weight as possible up your upper right back. Roll from your shoulder blades down to the bottom of your rib cage and back up. Do NOT roll directly on your spine. Repeat on the other side.
Sit on top of the foam roller with your RIGHT ankle crossed over your LEFT knee. Shift your weight to the RIGHT slightly to apply pressure onto your right glute. Roll forward and back slightly to release, then switch sides.
5. Hip Flexors
This can sometimes be a tricky muscle group to reach. The best way to hit it is to angle the upper part of the foam roller away from you so that the bottom part of it lines up with the crease of your pelvis and hips. Roll back and forth a few inches to release the hip flexors and shift your weight slightly from side to side to hit those muscles a little differently. Repeat on the other side.
Lay facedown, almost in a plank position on your elbows, with the foam roller just under your hips on your quads. Shift as much weight as possible onto the foam roller and slowly roll down your legs to just above the knee and roll back up. Also, try externally rotating your legs to hit the inside quad muscles, and internally rotate your legs to hit the outside quad muscles.
Lay on your side, with the bottom RIGHT leg placed onto a foam roller between the hip and the knee. Cross your LEFT leg over and place the foot on the floor. Place as much weight as possible into the bottom leg and roll from the hip to just above the knee and back up. Repeat on the other leg.
Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your RIGHT lower leg, between the base of your calves and your Achilles. Cross your LEFT leg over your right. Press into your hands and lift your hips off the ground to apply pressure onto the roller. Slowly walk your hands towards the foam roller to roll it up your leg. Stop just below the knee and roll back down. The most sensitive spot will mostly likely be at the base of your calf muscles. Repeat on the other leg.