The practice of foam rolling has been around for a long time, although it is only until recently that it has become so widespread, especially out here in Japan. Despite the rising popularity of foam rolling, there are still many people who are unaware of it as well as those who know about it but do not know what its purpose is or indeed how to use it.
Foam rolling can be a great ‘physical maintenance tool’ for virtually people from all walks of life, ranging from high level athletes to the regular office worker. It is different to conventional stretching which attempts to relax a muscle through elongation. Foam rolling doesn’t stretch the muscle but rather it loosens what is known as ‘fascia’ which is a tough fibrous connective tissue that surrounds muscles.
I will outline two simple purposes of foam rolling in relation to physical performance:
1) Improve range of motion
When fascia becomes tight, it can restrict the freedom of movement within that muscle which can cause reduced range of motion as well as the build up of pressure on the actual joints themselves. Considering joints aren’t designed to receive pressure the way muscles are, if muscles are tight and are unable to offer the support in which the joints need, this may eventually lead to injury.
Foam rolling can be a great tool to really loosen out that tight fascia and therefore provide increased range of motion and in effect reduce risk of injury as well as increase physical performance.
Try foam rolling your lats now for a minute each (yes just bare the pain!) and I guarantee you’ll be swinging your arms as if you’ve drank a litre of Red-bull (aka. You’ll be flying).
Transfer those newly loosened lats onto the performance scene, such as with the pull-up exercise, where an increased range of motion will lead to more area’s of the muscle being able to be contracted and ultimately will lead to a broader well built back! Remember lads, a woman likes a man with a broad back…it symbolised RELIABILITY (well in my opinion anyway).
2) Inhibit overactive muscles
Certain muscles in the body become overactive and in effect more tight than others. Foam rolling can have an ‘inhibition effect’ where such overly tight muscles can be reduced in its tendency to contract. This may sound like a bad idea, especially when training as you’d want to ensure all your muscles are activated when performing certain movements but it can actually be a very useful way to help you target the correct muscles you want to target.
A classic example will be the squat, where most people have overactive quads and underactive glutes and therefore when they perform the squat, the body won’t actually use the glutes but will rather prioritise the quads (which as you know will NOT lead to good results!) Therefore if you were to foam roll just the quads prior to the squat, you can reduce its activity and in effect allow the body to better connect with the glutes (even better when combined with a glute activation exercise such as the glute bridge). I strongly recommend for you to give this little trick a go and enjoy some nice ASS DOMS the next day…
Those are two simple functional purposes for the use of foam rolling so if you haven’t already got one, go on Rakuten (you can tell I live in Japan) and do yourself a favor and order one and get rolling!