I’ve practiced foam rolling on and off for many moons. It goes by many names – foam rolling, self massage, self-myofascial release, rolling on a lacrosse ball – but it’s all the same. Assuming it doesn’t cause you significant pain, it’s a perfectly fine therapy.
When I first start an activity, I find a roadmap helpful. If you’re new to foam rolling and are like me, here you go. From breakingmuscle.com:
To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen. 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. The goal is to restore healthy muscles – it is not a pain tolerance test.
After getting comfortable with new moves, I fall back on doing what feels good to my body as my teacher of techniques.
For a good visual guide, check out this routine. I chose this video because I dig the cement floor and the windows (hint: architecture post coming soon), but the content is solid and thorough.
As the KL regular readers know, I’ve been battling a minor hip issue that is impacting my squats (grrrr). I’ve been working to solve the riddle through trial and error, anti-inflammatory foods, etc. The first and most important reason I’m giving rolling an additional go is because it feels delicious. Secondarily, there is some non-conclusive evidence that range of motion around the knee can be improved through the practice, at least temporarily. From a 2013 study performed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association:
In conclusion, an acute bout of SMR of the quadriceps was an effective treatment to acutely enhance knee joint ROM without a concomitant deficit in muscle performance.
Too bad the study wasn’t tailored to address mysterious, unknown hip ailments. Even so, I’ve found zero downside to foam rolling. However, as rolling is essentially self-massage, there are risks, just as there are with massage in general. These are relatively minor and rare, but worth noting. From saveyourself.ca:
Massage can directly cause new injuries, aggravate existing problems, distract patients from more appropriate care and mildly stress the body.
I used to be that guy, the one who thought the painful massage was a badge of honor. If you approached me 15 years ago with a foam roller under your arm, I’d have rolled my eyes and pulled out my PVC pipe. I’ve since backed off that stance, although I still prefer the pipe to the foam. I dig it a tad deeper.
Time to inject some truth. Somebody smart came up with this shit to sell cylinders of foam for 40 bucks. That doesn’t take anything away from the potential benefits of the exercises, but it’s a fact worth examining. I have no issue with capitalizing on a good idea, but you won’t catch me at a frilly fitness store with this product and a yoga mat in my cart. Home Depot has various pieces of PVC pipe for a buck or two and a tennis ball does all the same tricks. If you dig it softer, get yourself a piece of pipe and wrap a towel and some duct tape around that bad boy.
Now hit up the Ashley from the video, see if she’ll let you roll at her place next to those windows.