Foam rolling is a simple technique that is guaranteed to support your body in a myriad of ways. We’re here to convince you why this funny-looking method of keeping your muscles and connective tissue in good shape is so worth a few extra minutes of effort.
To understand what the benefits of foam rolling are, we have to understand what it is and how it works. Rolling is, first and foremost, a technique to provide a myofascial release for ourselves.
Fascia is a sheet of connective tissue that keeps all of our muscles in place and allows them to function with the rest of the body. Fascia connects our muscles to tendons, to ligaments, and to bone, which allows everything to move with one another effectively. Without fascia, we’d fall apart like a pile of noodles.
The thing about fascia is that it can be disrupted. Our daily actions can cause the fascia to “knot,” which is another term for “myofascial adhesions.” Unfortunately, these knots are pretty hard to avoid. You can get them from working out super hard, from sitting around too long, from favoring one side of your body, from repeating movements too often, and from literally almost any other type of movement you can imagine.
If you’ve ever given or received a massage, you’re painfully aware of the little bunches of tissue (myofascial adhesions) that snap, crackle, and pop under our fingers. That’s another form of myofascial release. Foam rolling works in the same way; it releases those adhesions and allows our fascia to hold us together more effectively and without any hitches. It’s a massage that you can provide for yourself.
Here are some of the foam rolling benefits that this fantastic form of self-care can provide:
As we said, foam rolling takes knots out of your fascia. Those knots create problems with the ways our muscles interact with one another, so removing them allows them to work better, which ultimately improves your range of motion and thus bodily performance!
According to this study (and many others like it), foam rolling increases maximal voluntary contraction, which is a measurement of muscle strength. By utilizing foam roller exercises, your muscles are better at exerting strength!
Foam rollers don’t just break down myofascial adhesions. They also break down lactic acid! Lactic acid is an organic acid that our bodies use to signal to us that it doesn’t have enough oxygen to break down glucose properly. TL;DR- more rolling = less soreness and muscle pain, allowing for shorter recovery time.
So there isn’t a single scientific consensus on exactly how foam rolling works. But one theory posits that foam rolling is also a neurological process: when we put pressure on our sore muscles, those nerves send signals to our brains that tell our tight muscles to loosen up. That could be why we feel that relieving sense of “Ahhh, this hurts so good!” when we foam roll.
Rolling out your muscles makes them longer based on the principle of autogenic inhibition! When you roll, the pressure on your muscles creates more tension in muscle fibers. As a result of this tension, your Golgi tendon organ sends signals that allow muscle spindles and fibers to stretch.
Friction causes heat, and when we foam roll, we’re creating friction between the roller and your muscles. That heat makes our muscles more gel-like, which makes them more elastic and pliable. Pliable muscles allow for smoother motion!
For our bodies to perform all of the functions we need them to perform, our muscle groups have to work together as smoothly as possible. When one muscle or group of muscles is restricted, knotted, or tight, an opposite muscle or muscle group can struggle to perform its desired functions. Our bodies rely so heavily on the ease with which their parts can connect, and foam rolling enables a balance between opposing forces around a joint!
All of these benefits that we have already mentioned come together to prevent you from being injured. With an increased range of motion, improved blood flow to your muscles, more pliability, a better connection between forces in your body, and more length, you are less likely to incur injuries when you work out after foam rolling.
Foam rolling works kind of like oiling a rusty door hinge. The door will still work rusted, but when you add oil, it flies open and closed seamlessly – just like when we roll out before we exercise, our muscles are more capable of doing what we want them to! You can foam roll at any of our locations. Stop in and try it for yourself!