Foam roller exercises

Fascia or myofascia is a form of connective tissue that is very tough and strong whilst also being extremely flexible. It is a lining that encases almost every muscle fibre and spans the entire body. It’s main function is to help transmit tensile forces in the body. If the fascia is tight, it may lead to various problems such as headaches, muscle pains and spasms, back and neck pain, sciatica and may predispose a muscle to injury among other things.

Myofascial release is a technique used to improve localised tightness in the fascia that may be a source of pain. Currently, foam rolling is the most popular choice for managing tight myofascia at home and many people as well as elite sports players find it a useful technique to improve their posture, flexibility and to prevent future sports injuries. It involves the person placing a foam roller between a body part and the floor and using gravity as well as body weight to apply pressure and massage the targeted area by rolling over it.

Foam rolling can be an effective tool in managing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It works by reducing perceived soreness in the muscle and increasing the pain threshold if done within 48 hours after performing intense exercise. This enhanced recovery is thought to be due to the improved blood flow which encourages lactate removal, oedema reduction and oxygen delivery in the muscle.

It may also be useful in improving the mobility in joints by making the muscle more flexible through altering the muscle spindle length or stretch perception as well as breaking down scar tissue. For example rolling your tight Quadriceps may allow you to bend your knee more fully.

Some research has shown that static muscle stretching before exercise may cause a temporary weakness in the muscle which could poorly affect performance. On the other hand, the effects of foam rolling before an activity suggests that it may improve the perception of muscle fatigue without damaging the muscle’s performance. Therefore foam rolling is an effective way of warming up and cooling down as opposed to conventional stretching. There may also be positive long terms effect on flexibility after doing regular rolling for more than two weeks.

The most popular and dreaded area for using a foam roller is the Iliotibial band which is made mostly of connective tissue and is a common source of pain for many runners or cyclists. Other areas include the upper back, lower back, thighs, calves, buttocks and chest (mostly for men) so really any major muscle group can be reached by the foam roller.

It is a cheap and an effective piece of equipment that can be used at home or in the gym.