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.
Kyle G. says
Been foam rolling for years, love it, great way to loosen up back and other muscles… I will say I do have the $40 foam roller but did not buy it, was a gift.
Try a lax ball to get in those tight areas
Who ruined that perfectly good garage with furniture?
This post is ironic in that I just bought one of those “deep tissue” rollers online before I even read this post! It was only $14, not $40 tho. It seems to me like PVC or a tennis ball would wreck havoc on my hip. I have a nagging hip/lower back injury that is driving me bonkers and I’m going to give foam rolling a try. What do I have to lose? Hopefully some pain!
Nice post Kap. If I need to massage muscles I try to alternate between a tennis and lacrosse balls however not always easy to keep them around with pitbull mastiff mix in the house. Thanks for the post Kap!
Greg Owens says
I tweaked my knee playing beach volleyball and it became really tight. So much so, that I could not do a squat. I talked to a friend at the gym who is a physical therapist. He told me to get a foam roller and roll out the muscles around the knee. He said that the muscles form a defense for the knee by tightening around the joint and they needed to be loosened up. Within two weeks, I was doing light weight squats and the knee is wonderful today. I would have never believed it, but it worked perfectly. I’m a believer and use a foam roller regularly along with stretching. Thanks Kap
Kevin McNeil. says
I have the $40 dollar variety at home, have given it as a gift and donated one to my gym. At the gym it is always the first one to get checked out by the serious squatters. Over the 6 months I have owned the grid, I have saved hundreds of dollars on massages.
Making another push to have you check out, Kelly Starrett, The Supple Leopard. The guy is an ex-navy seal, a doctor of physical therapy, national lecturer and cross fit gym owner.
Here is one guys experience. Mine is similar. Like the grid roller, I have gifted this book on several occasions. You will kick yourself for not checking this out sooner.
Michelle Kania says
Try one of these Kelly Starrett videos, I just got the voodoo bands and it does make a difference. I also get made fun of for using a PVC pipe and the day I wandered around Menards looking for the perfect PVC pipe I remember the worker asking me if I needed help (I chose not to tell him my true intention). http://youtu.be/VQtwaPoK-UM to work on your proximal hamstring and http://youtu.be/weXE10IztZU to floss the upper hip.
I am a huge fan of foam rolling, I try to hit the roller and lacrosse ball for at least 15-20 minutes every night while watching TV!