These days, as exercise is increasingly important, a wide variety of equipment - some of which you may have never seen or used before - is gaining popularity. While some items are just a gimmick, others serve a unique and valuable purpose.
A foam roller is very valuable addition to anyone’s home or gym environment, and it’s becoming increasingly common as a tool to release tension and increase muscle function and flexibility. The foam roller is used to perform what’s called self-myofascial release. The intent of self-myofascial release is to loosen "trigger points in the muscles" — spots that might be tight or sore after exercise, a long day in a stiffened position, or after performing repetitive job tasks that cause knots and aches in the muscles and tendons.
Self-myofascial release using a foam roll releases the tightness and improves blood flow, resulting in reduced muscle soreness, increased flexibility and improved workout performance. They are inexpensive and can be found at most sporting goods stores or online shops.
Self-myofascial release is beneficial any time of day, but especially at the start and end of the day. Taking some time to “roll out” your muscles can help prevent or reduce soreness in the ensuing hours and days. The same technique can be performed using a lacrosse ball (or other small rubber ball) to pinpoint specific trigger points, applying pressure to a smaller, targeted area such as the foot, neck or shoulder.
Foam Rolling: How It’s Done
The self-myofascial release technique can be performed on any muscle group in the body, including the back, quads, thighs, calves, hips and shoulders. Begin by placing the foam roller on the ground and then sitting or lying on it so the area you want to target is on the roller. Using slow, controlled movements, roll back and forth across the roller. Don’t be too quick to move on to the next muscle group; work each muscle group for one to two minutes, and if you find an area that is tight or painful, pause over that spot until you feel the muscle release.
Self-myofascial release works as a form of deep tissue massage, so it’s common to experience minor discomfort or pain during the process. If you experience pain that is unbearable, stop. When you are finished, your muscles should feel looser and any pain or discomfort should diminish.
This 2014 Study indicates that while Foam Rolling does not increase sports performance, it does have a dramatic effect on levels of muscular fatigue and soreness. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588488