Many of you may have probably heard that foam rolling is a good post-workout ritual but don’t exactly know what it does. Clinically known as, self-myofascial release, foam rolling is an essential supplement to stretching that maximizing your results, improves flexibility and releases muscle tension.Think of this post as foam rolling 101; a little background on what it is and one of the most important foam rolling stretches you can do to prevent knee injury, which is especially great for all you runners out there! Ok, let’s shed some light on this essential part of keeping your body balanced and performing at it’s optimal level.
First , let’s talk about muscles, those amazing fibers that hold our bodies up and allow us to move by lengthening and shortening. For example, straighten out your arm in front of you, notice how your bicep is stretched out. Now slowly bend your elbow up to a 90 degree angle. Notice that in order to do that your bicep has to shortened and pull up your forearm, kinda cool huh? That’s just one movement, think about all the movements you make in a day! Your muscles are stretching and contracting all day long and that is why flexibility is so important!
Throughout our daily movement our muscle fibers tear and these loose fibers tangle up and create knots; and knots shorten our muscles. How you ask? Well, imagine a rubber band being stretched and shortened between two posts, now picture that rubber band with 20 knots trying to stretch out the same length. That rubber band can still be stretched, but the rubber band is much shorter in length, under a lot more tension and more prone to breaking, this is why stretching the muscle is not enough to regain all of your flexibility. Just like that rubber band you can stretch all you want but if you don’t release the tension from the knots you aren’t allowing your muscles the ability to perform at their best which will leave you not getting the results you want or even worse, lead to muscle imbalances, lower back pain, and an increased risk of injury.
This is where foam rolling comes in. Think of foam rolling as your personal daily deep tissue massage. It’s performed by applying pressure to various muscle fibers to stimulate receptors, which control tension of that muscle and allow it to relax and thereby lengthen. By foam rolling before stretching you are ensuring that you are getting the most out of the stretch and making sure you stay limber for that next yoga class. Foam rolling helps improve blood flow, which will decrease your recovery time (muscles soreness) after a tough workout. Most gyms have a few of these laying around in the stetching area or you can buy one on Amazon for less than $20. (The cheapest massage you’ll ever invest in!)
Once you have a foam roll try rolling out your IT band; a major muscles group that attaches from the outside of your hip to your knee. This is a key muscle in jogging as well as sitting so it’s lengthened and shortened A LOT throughout the day. Like a deep tissue massage you’ll probably find a few pressure points that will cause a little pain but it’s totally worth it!
How to Foam Roll IT Band:
1. Start in a side plank, with the foam roll just below your hip bone. Keep foot parallel to the floor.
2. Roll down the outside of your thigh towards your knee, holding any tender area for 20-30 seconds.(NEVER roll over a bone/joint).
3. Focus on the tender areas even though they may be the least comfortable to roll out. It’s common to find more tender spots near your joints. Repeat for the other leg.
4. Follow up by stretching the front and back of your hip (Hip Flexors, Piriformis, Quads) for maximal benefit.
Recommendation: foam roll daily; spend 10-20 min. rolling and stretching.