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The Future is Foam Rolling

By Kelly Marshall BSc (Hons), Dip PT, NASM, SFS, IFS, CES

The new way to improve flexibility & prevent injury

foam rolling

It is referred to as 'Foam Rolling' or 'Self-Myofascial Release' (SMR) and in the past decade this concept has emerged and established itself within the health and fitness industry. This concept of self-administered pressure is similar to the prinicples of sport massage and other manual therapies, (like ischemic pressure and trigger pointing), used to release tight soft tissue, muscle adhesions and trigger points and research has highlighted the improved flexibility and injury prevention benefits from its combined use with static stretching (Clark, Luccett & Corn, 2007; Hanten et al, 2000; McCaw, 2008).

What does it involve?

Using a device (foam roll) to slowely roll along the line of a relaxed muscle group, i.e. the calf (See figure A), until you find a tender (or painful!) spot at which point you statically hold the pressure to that area for at least 30 seconds* (see figure B).Foam rolling fits into a weekly exercise plan as part of the warm up and cool down protocol or a daily routine in its own right. It is performed on the tight muscles specific to a given individual and should always be done before static stretching. The static stretcing that follows needs to be specific to optimise the impact of the SMR on soft tissue, flexibility.

*The 30 seconds is necessary to allow the tissue to register and adjust accordingly to the pressure, with increased blood flow, increased temperature and a relax reflex to the area

You can use SMR in various muscle groups but proper coaching to ensure safe techniques are advised. All the major health clubs now stock foam rollers and they can also be purchased for home use at various internet stockists including:

Be aware that like sports massage, SMR can be uncomfortale and even painful at first though it does ease with regular use. For more information about the reveloution of SMR you can email me at asktheexerciseconsultant@nutracheck.co.uk

Foam Rolling:
Increases flexibility
Decreases chronic pain
Decreases muscle cramping
Decreases injury risk

References

Hanten, W.P, Olson, S.L, Butts, N.L and Nowicki, A.L (2000). "Effectiveness of a Home Program of Ischemic Pressure followed by sustained stretch for treatment of myofascial trigger points". Physical Therapy. Vol.80(10): pp.997-1003

McCaw, A (2008). "Rolling for Recovery". Medicine and Science in Tennis. Vol.13(2): pp. 4-7

Clark, M.A, Lucett, S.C and Corn, R.J. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2007.

Disclaimer
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