What's even more important than hitting every rep of your killer workout? MUSCLE RECOVERY!
The act of foam rolling also goes by the name of self-myofascial release (basically, a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points within dense connective tissue in the body). Fascia is a specialized connective tissue layer surrounding muscles, bones and joints, giving support and protection to the body. This tissue can become thick, tough and knotted, and has been correlated with subsequent injury, if not taken care of properly. These knots can also restrict or alter the motion of a joint, if enough tension is built up over time. Utilizing stretching alone is not always enough to release muscles tightness, which is why we foam roll. Imagine trying to stretch a bungee cord with a knot tied into it. This creates tension on the cord, stretching the unknotted portion of the cord (your muscle) and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered (ouch!). Trigger points can form from serious physical trauma, poor posture or movement mechanics, over training, inadequate rest between training sessions, and possibly even diet and hydration factors.
So how do you do it? Self-myofascial release can be performed with a foam roller, lacrosse or tennis ball, your own hands, or a dumbbell, if that’s your only option. By applying pressure to specific points on your body, you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function by releasing the tension of the trigger points. This also allows for better and normal blood flow to resume, as well as restoration of healthy tissue. Your muscles will soon be elastic, healthy, and ready to perform again.
Yes, foam rolling will/can be painful! It’s almost bittersweet; it feels like a rough deep tissue massage because, essentially, it IS. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and it should feel better when you are done. It's extremely important to take care of your muscles and your body, especially if you are putting it through stress in the gym 4-6 days per week. Also remember to keep drinking water, both in and out of them gym. Keeping your muscles elastic and hydrated will also aid in recovery and help prevent injury.
Although there are no hard and fast rules for foam rolling, here are some tips for your next session:
•Breathe slowly and continuously, as this will help to reduce any tense reflexes caused by discomfort; do not hold your breath!
• Keep your core tight, providing stability to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex during foam rolling
•Spend 1-2 minutes per self myofascial release technique and on each side (when needed)
•When a trigger point is found (you will know, it’s painful) hold for 30-45 seconds to release the tension/knot
•You may be sore after the first few sessions, or possibly even most sessions, but your body will thank you in the long run
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