Using foam rollers and other self-massage tools to eliminate aches and pains and improve flexibility is becoming more mainstream for good reason: Self-myofascial release is one of the best things you can do for your muscles and joints.
When your muscles are tight and and your range of motion is decreased, joints and muscles don’t function properly. The result is often pain and even injury, sometimes occurring “out of the blue.” For example, if your hips are tight from sitting all day and you try to bend over and pick something up, you could strain your low back trying to compensate for the limited mobility.
Self-myofascial release works by applying pressure to very specific areas in the muscle tissue using your own body weight and a massage tool. You can target just the right areas to increase blood flow, release microscopic “knots,” and restore muscle and joint function, all in your own office or home.
What causes tight, bundled muscles? Poor posture, repetitive patterns (overuse), sitting, previous injury or trauma, and more. Most people have tight muscles but few know they can fix their own aches and pains so easily.
A dynamic warm up and cool down will help maintain range of motion and blood flow, but foam rolling also needs to be a part of your routine. Think of self-myofascial release as muscle maintenance.
How to Foam Roll
If you’ve been foam rolling awhile, hold tight and enter my giveaway below. If you’re a newbie, just a heads up that you might find foam rolling to be almost intolerable at first. When you put all your body weight on a single tender area of muscle you can bet there will be pain. The good news is that the more you foam roll, the less intense the pain as you work out knots. In time you’ll even work up a tolerance for deep tissue massage.
The key to foam rolling is to roll slowly over muscles (no more than one inch per second) until you find a tender spot. Once you find a spot that’s painful or tight, stop and simply apply pressure to the area. As the area begins to release (anywhere from five to 30 seconds), you can move on to the next spot.
Self-Myofascial Release Tools
After you’ve been foam rolling for awhile it’s time for tools that offer a deeper tissue massage. It may be more and more difficult to find those tender spots with a standard foam roller. I’ve been foam rolling for four years and the only places I can feel a standard foam roller are on my iliotibial bands and glutes.
I switched to an original density (blue) RumbleRoller over a year ago because it concentrates the pressure directly into small areas near bones and joints. I love using it on my lats, calves, and tensor fasciae latae. (Check out this great introduction to foam rolling video.) I’ve started using Beastie balls too and find them extremely effective. I’m almost ready for an extra-firm (black) RumbleRoller – it’s hardcore, but as I said, your body develops a tolerance and you crave that pain release that comes with an effective self-myofascial release tool.
Give it a try and let me know how you like it!
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.