To Foam Roll or Not to Foam Roll?

Most of you may be thinking, just what the heck is a foam roller anyway?  If you are one of my clients you have almost certainly been introduced to one.  For everyone else I’ll try to keep the explanation as simple as possible. A foam roller is nothing more than a solid tube usually 6 inches in diameter and 1 to 3 feet long.  They are usually made of pressed foam but can be made of PVC pipe that’s covered with foam.

The technique applied in using a foam roller is called “Self Myofascial Release.”  Simply put, it’s a way to place pressure on a trigger point (or knot) in your muscles in a way that will trigger a sequence of interactions that will inevitably allow your muscles to relax.  A good analogy would be when you go to get a back massage and the masseuse finds a knot in your back.  That masseuse applies some form of pressure to that knot to get it to go away.  The foam roller does the same thing.

For those who want the technical side of foam rolling the term for what happens during this process is “Autogenic Inhibition”.   Applying pressure to a knot sends a signal to the GTO (Golgi Tendon Organ) which then sends a signal to the Muscle Spindle to tell the muscle to relax.  This is the primary reason that it’s important to hold a stretch or the foam roller on a tight spot for at least 30 seconds.  The communication between the GTO and Muscle Spindle takes time so if you don’t hold it long enough it will not be as effective.

Foam Rolling along with regular stretching will bring muscles back to their proper length and decrease distortions in movement.  There are a lot of good resources out there for foam rolling via Google.  The following below is for an instructional video from Eric Cressy, a well known professional in the sports performance and conditioning field.  Take a look to see how it’s done (www.youtube.com/watch?v=8caF1Keg2XU).

You can purchase a foam roller at most sporting good stores; however I’ve found the quality of those rollers to be lacking.  I would recommend checking out the PB Elite Foam Rollers  from Perform Better.com.  They are high quality and reasonably priced at $10 for the small roller and $23 for the larger roller (click on the words “PB Elite Foam Roller”  above for the direct link to Performbetter.com. 

Good Luck!

About Kelvin Gary

Florida native and NYC based Personal Trainer Kelvin Gary looks to help motivate, inspire and inform those looking to better their lives through fitness and healthy living.

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