Roll Out!

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by: Justin Krause

Self-myofascial release (SMR), or foam rolling as it is more commonly referred to as, is a popular technique used by fitness professionals and athletes worldwide. Take a look around your gym and you will probably see people lying on the ground rolling back and forth. Ever wondered what the point of “rolling out” is, or better yet, how to properly use a foam roller? 

Fascia is the fibrous connective tissues that surround and separate the different muscles, vessels, nerves, and organs in the body, binding them together both mechanically and neurologically. Foam rolling is utilized to break up the knots that result from micro-tears in the fascia caused by trauma, overuse, imbalances, or inflammation thus improving the activation and recovery of the muscle in a way similar to some modes of massage. SMR helps to alleviate tightness, increase joint range of motion, decrease muscle soreness, maximize optimal length-tension relationship, and relieve joint stress. Below are key pieces of information to keep in mind next time you grab a foam roller.

Pre-Workout

Goal is to prepare the tissue and nervous system for the upcoming demand of the workout. The mechanoreceptors stimulated by using the rapid release technique help improve proprioceptive feedback and controlled motor movement.

How to use:

  • Scan the specific tissues that will be targeted in your workout

  • Identify areas of tightness and tenderness

  • Quickly oscillate over the area for 10-15 seconds (rapid release)

  • Address tissue up and down stream

Benefits of foam rolling prior to activity:

  • Increase blood flow

  • Optimize length-tension relationship of a muscle/tissue

  • Improve movement efficiency

  • Psychological ramp up for activity

Post-Workout

Goal is to serve as a cool down method both physically and psychologically. Foam rolling post-workout helps the body flush metabolic wastes and promotes circulation. The mechanoreceptors stimulated by using the recovery release technique tend to have a relaxing effect on local tissues as well as the whole body.

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How to use:

  • Scan the tissues that were targeted in your workout

  • Identify areas of tightness and tenderness

  • Hold pressure on target tissue for 30 seconds (recovery release)

  • Address tissue up and down stream

Benefits of foam rolling post activity:

  • Flush tissues

  • Create and restore elasticity of tissue

  • Helps begin the recovery process

  • Slows heart rate back to resting levels

  • Psychological relaxation

Movement – Pin and Stretch

How to use:

  • Scan tissue that feels restricted or limits movement quality

  • Identify tissue quality during specific pre treatment movement

  • Hold above and/or below target tissue and begin to move tissue through range of motion for 30-60 seconds (fascial movement release)

  • Address tissue up and down stream

[Demo]

Pain/Discomfort

Pain is defined as an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli interpreted by the brain. One can expect mild to moderate discomfort when foam rolling, but experiencing actual pain could indicate something is wrong. If you feel shooting or piercing pain, stop rolling and adjust the placement of the roller.

Breathing

Breathing is critical! If you are holding your breath due to discomfort then the pressure is too much. To help avoid this, try adding another point of contact to the ground to alleviate pressure.

The 10 most problematic areas

1. Iliotibial Band (IT Band): Start along the outside of the thigh, above the knee, and roll along the outside of the thigh to the hip bone. Roll from above the hip bone back down to the knee. You can brace your body with your hands to dictate the amount of pressure applied. Make sure you spend some time near the hip to focus on your tensor fasciae latae (TFL).

2. Quadriceps: Start on the front of the thigh, above the knee, and roll to the hip crease. Roll form the hip crease back down to just above the knee. You can turn your foot in different directions to find the target areas. Do not roll over your kneecap.

3. Hamstrings: Start on the back of the leg, above the knee joint, and roll to the glute crease. Roll from the glute crease back down to just above the knee joint. You can turn your foot in different directions to find the target areas. Do not roll in the back of the knee joint.

4. Calves: Start at the Achilles’ tendon and roll to below the knee joint. From below the knee joint, roll back towards the Achilles’ tendon. You can turn your foot in different directions to find the target areas. You can cross the opposite leg over the leg you are rolling to apply additional pressure.

5. Shins: Start above the ankle joint and roll to just below the knee. From below the knee, roll back towards the ankle joint. You can roll both shins simultaneously if you wish to do so.

6. Low Back: Roll from the top of the glutes up toward the bottom of the ribcage. From the base of the ribcage, roll towards the top of the glutes. If rolling on the ground is too intense, use the wall in a standing position.

7. Mid/Upper Back: Start at the bottom of the ribcage and roll toward the base of the neck. From the base of the neck, roll toward the bottom of the ribcage. Hug yourself to protract the scapula to provide easier access to the target areas.

8. Shoulder Blade: From the top of the shoulder blade, lean 45O toward the target area and roll to the bottom of the blade. Roll from the bottom of the blade toward the top of the shoulder blade. To help make rolling the shoulder easier, reach across with the opposite arm and grab the shoulder being rolled. You can use the wall in a standing position if the ground is too intense.

9. Latissimus Dorsi: Start below the armpit, and roll halfway down the ribcage. From halfway down the ribcage, roll back toward the armpit. Externally rotate your shoulder by turning your palm toward the ceiling.

10. Shoulder: On your side, roll from outside the mid-upper arm, to the top of the shoulder. Roll from the top of the shoulder back to the outside of the mid-upper arm. If rolling on the ground is too intense, use the wall in a standing position. 

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