Foam Rolling - arguably one of the hottest topics in health and fitness today, but what does it really do?!
When we foam roll or do soft tissue mobilization, what exactly are we doing? We’re targeting the fascia, the connective tissue of the body, the muscles, and the skin, but we’re also affecting blood flow and stimulating the nervous system. What we’re not doing is releasing the fascia. When you’re “rolling out your IT band,” what you’re actually doing is influencing the tissues below by compressing them. You’re compressing the skin, which provides tactile stimulation to the nervous system, you’re mobilizing the tissues, and rehydrating the tissue. Hydration is extremely important for fascia because it allows this tissue to be stronger and more dynamic. —-
Fascia forms an anatomical network throughout the body – it’s a body-wide mechano-sensitive signaling system. Fascia protects nerves, which need a large blood supply. When you increase blood flow to an area it will keep the mechanoreceptors of the fascia, the sensory organs that respond to vibration, stretch, and pressure, healthy allowing for proper fibrogenesis to occur, which helps with injury repair. —-
Healthy tissues have muscle play, they glide and slide over each other. When muscles aren’t in their optimal state, they can adhere to each other. Foam rolling and soft tissue mobilization can help get those tissues unstuck. When you foam roll, try to relax, breathe and allow your body to adapt to the soft tissue changes. Don’t cruise up and down, just find a tender spot and stay there for 30 seconds or until it “melts” away. Also, harder isn’t always better, so choose a foam roller that suits your body. —-
Research is still limited, but thus far foam rolling seems to have short term effects in increasing joint range of motion, lessening decrements in muscle performance, and diminishing perceived muscle soreness after an intense workout.(Cheatham, et al.) The best time to foam roll is both before and after your workout, but if you only have time to do one or the other, do it before. It will help improve muscle play and allow the muscles to work in a more efficient manner during your workout.