Foam Rolling: A How-To Guide (or: 4 mistakes you're probably making when foam-rolling)
Did you also become a successful "home-workouter"? Equipped with yoga mat, weights, maybe even a peloton? Then you are probably also foam-rolling (if not, you should start now).
Foam rolling, as you probably know, helps speed up recovery and muscle relaxation, yet a lot of athletes simply purchase a big foam roller without prior consult and just roll and roll...with no specific technique or goal.
Sound familiar? Here a 4 important mistakes to consider when foam-rolling.
Photo by Malidate Van from Pexels
1. Rolling back and forth...and back and forth...
Imagine a room full of trash. Would you move it from one side to another, and then back to the other side again and again and...again? Doesn't make a lot of sense. That's the same for the fascia: Rolling in only one direction will help the muscles and surrounding tissues to get new, fresh nutrients, and not just moving it back and forth.
Optimum direction is in the direction of the lymph flow - so waste products can be easily eliminated through the lymph capillaries, as shown in the image below:
Side note: This should also be the direction of dry brushing. Click here to learn more about dry brushing for breast and body health (external website: circuellefoundation).
If that's too much for now - just remember: whichever direction you chose, the most important thing is to go in only one direction.
The goal of foam-rolling is to move waste products away, and get new, fresh nutrients into the fascia and muscles, as well as loosen fascial adhesions built up in the muscles. The problem here: if you just quickly roll over your muscles, you may move a little bit of fluids around, but if you roll very slowly, there will be a much bigger impact on the fascia itself - a wave of fluid that you will be able to move, as the fascia is extremely connected and almost steel-like. Go as slow as possible, to get those tell those connections to let go, or rather to bend in one direction.
If you go fast, the body will produce even more collagen (that's the main ingredient in fascia) - which will in return increase the density of the fascia and make it too thick and rigid - impacting your movement, which may create even more sore areas in your body.
Going slowly will indicate the fascia to let go, and loosen up.
That also goes for massage - when I had my first massage training with the Llumier Legend Rachel - she slowed me down most of the time. The slower, the better. It does not only help the body to relax far better, but also releases facia adhered to muscles.
3. The foam roller is too hard
The foam roller should be used with deep pressure to the muscles. However, if the roller is too hard, it will start touching and hurting the bones as well, and you will be unable to go deep enough. So using the right equipment is detrimental to the success of foam-rolling.
"Collagen fibers are "stronger than steel and can hold ten thousand times their own weight. [...] Since collagen is made to resist force, the most effective way to release the fascia is gentle sustained pressure"
4. Rolling directly on the sore spots / injured muscles
"When it comes to foam rolling and myofascial release, constantly working the area of pain could create more inflammation and tension in the area, further tensing the muscles and fascia" And just because you feel pain in a specific area does not mean, that this is where the source of the injury lies. "IT band trouble, for example, isn’t typically a result of the IT band itself being tight. Rather, IT band issues are typically a result of tightness in the muscle groups that attach to the IT band, like the gluteus maximus." (Source: Runners Connect)
What does that mean for your foam rolling practice? Do not constantly roll over your injured area, but include the surrounding and connecting tissues and muscles.
Let's get rolling. One time each muscle. Slow. With a soft foam roller.
Want to learn more about fascia? Check out this in-depth article from Jenni Rawlings at Yoga International.
Disclaimer: The information offered in this article is for your information only and in no case replaces personal consultation, examination or diagnosis by a licensed physician. The contents provided by us cannot and may not be used to make independent diagnoses.