The benefits of foam rolling have to do with the mobility of the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain. Many runners will stretch to try to keep their muscles healthy, but foam rolling beforehand may prove to be more beneficial. A recent study (Foam Rolling and Static Stretching on Passive Hip Flexion Range of Motion) that was accepted for publication in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation in January of 2014 measures the effects of foam rolling prior to static stretching. The authors found an increase in hip range of motion after rolling on the hamstring then stretching, compared to stretching alone. Increase in flexibility was thought to be from increased blood flow and an increase in intramuscular temperature, both of which increase the viscoelastic properties of muscle.
Fascia is continually being created and laid down throughout our body. Without proper movement, the fibers will not form in the correct pattern, creating pain and inhibiting movement. The stresses that we put on our bodies every day can affect how fascia is laid down. Those stresses can range from running, carrying a heavy work bag on our shoulder, sitting at a computer, or any other activity that we perform regularly! Foam rolling will keep trigger points and scar tissue broken up within the muscle and fascia, allowing greater tissue extensibility , normal function, and normal motion.
Another benefit to regular SMR (Self Myofascial Release such as foam rolling) is the performance capability of your muscles. The more flexible your muscles are within normal range of motion, the more power they will be able to produce. This has to do with elastic energy. The more stretch a muscle gets, the more stored energy it has, the more force it will be able to generate. On the other hand, a less flexible muscle produces less stretch, less range of motion, less stored energy, and decreased force output. SMR, combined with proper stretching, strengthening, and training could help you reach new performance levels that you were never able to achieve before. SMR has become standard practice among many collegiate and professional level athletes across all sports because of the perceived performance benefits.
Cool, how long do I need to foam roll for?
I'd say about 30 seconds 2-3 times a day in a sensitive area. If you spend too much time rolling out a certain muscle, you may risk causing more inflammation. Make sure not to over due it. I will follow up with some common and amazing foam rolling videos on our youtube channel very soon! Stay tuned!
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