Foam rolling is more technically known as self-myofascial release, a fancy name for self massage.
Fascia is a soft tissue network that covers all the muscles in a single sheath. Just like muscles fascia can form knots and trigger points. Although it is one continuous connective tissue, it has slings where muscles along a chain work together and this explains how pain on one part of the body can show up somewhere else. It is complex but fascinating but it needs to be functioning normally otherwise niggles and injury will develop.
The use of a deep tissue massage is effective but it also costs money and you need to find someone that is fully qualified and available at a time that is convenient for you. Foam rolling is an effective, relatively affordable, time efficient and easy to perform method of promoting muscle recovery.
Anything can be used, a foam roller, trigger ball, tennis ball or frozen bottle of water. Applying pressure to trigger points it aids recovery by returning the muscles and fascia to normal function and in a state ready to react and work immediately. With the muscles back to normal function as a result of foam rolling it can increase sprint speed, increased pain-pressure threshold and dynamic strength endurance. It also reduces fatigue based performance decrements relating to DOMs.
Foam rolling can be completed on all the major muscles groups including calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals and lower and mid back. It is also effective on smaller muscles and soft tissue such as plantar fascia, the rotator cuff muscles and wrist extensor muscles that can cause tennis elbow.
There are many different methods of foam rolling, one is use a foam roller, have it under the targeted muscle and roll the foam roller along the length of the muscle. For more targeted trigger points use a ball, with the ball against a hard surface and in the area of the trigger point apply pressure, whether this is you laying on the floor or against a wall it all depends on what suits you best.
This picture was found on Google images and www.physio-therapy.cz
Before Exercise – When foam rolling before exercise it increases blood flow and improves lymphatic drainage which both aid circulation. It also reduces muscle tension which makes for a more effective workout.
After Exercise – Foam rolling should be done alongside a stretching program. After exercise foam rolling can breakdown knots, reduce tension along muscles and also reduce the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).