What is the point of foam rolling?
January 18, 2018
Foam rolling seems to be becoming more and more prevalent in peoples exercise regimes. I play football and have noticed over the years more and more players seem to be pulling out foam rollers prior to games and training, I have also seen this trend in other sports I’ve played over the past few years such as volleyball and basketball.
In a recent PT session I was asked, ‘what is the point of foam rolling’ which got me thinking, how many people understand why we do this and what do we gain from it? Today we at Functional for Life will be aiming to give our readers a little more insight into what is going on.
Foam rolling is a form of ‘self myofascial release’ Another way of thinking about this term, is self massage. This is essentially what our aim is when we foam roll, use massage balls, thera canes and so on. It is a way of giving our self a massage and ‘releasing the fascia’ that holds our muscles together.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a matrix of connective tissue present throughout the whole body. It stabilises, encloses and separates muscles and other internal organs. Essentially all muscles sit within fascia, fascia give the muscles structural integrity and as mentioned separation from one muscle cell to another, one muscle group to another and so on.
To give you a visual, consider an orange. When you peel an orange there is the white stringy stuff around the orange. This seperates its juice into tiny little sacs, then into sections, then into the shape of the orange itself.
In essence this fascia is essential in the structuring of the human body. If you are interested in a more detailed break down of fascia check out the following article.
Why should we be releasing fascia?
From a functional movement perspective, the reason we want to release fascia is because when it is tightly binded around a muscle it can restrict the movement of that muscle. This can hold us back from being able to perform exercises correctly and efficiently and increase our risk of injuring ourself. Check out the following video for a visual breakdown of what can happen when we repeat the same movements for long periods of time. Keeping in mind if we repeat the same movements with a high degree of biomechanical efficiency, that is great, if we repeat the same movements with dysfunctional and non efficient movement we will likely have issues at some point.
Muscles can become ‘locked short’ or ‘locked long’ based on our day to day movement. Back to the original question, ‘why do we foam roll’. The aim of foam rolling is to try and ‘break up’ the bonds that occur when our muscles are locked short or locked long and hence ‘freeing up’ that muscle to be able to move in a more functional and ‘ideal’ way. Having your muscles move the way they were designed to will help with not only more efficient movement in day to day life but also better results in training and will usually lead to pain free movement.
Stay tuned for part 2
We hope after reading today’s blog you have a better idea of what fascia is and why foam rolling and other forms of self myofascial release are used. In our next blog we are going to give you a practical example of how short and tight muscles can lead to dysfunction. We will also give you some tips on releasing in some upcoming blogs and videos. Thanks for reading and for more training and functional movement tips check out www.functionalforlife.com.au