Foam Roller

Why, When, and How to Use A Foam Roller and a Massage Gun

Foam Rolling and a Massage gun can replace a good sports massage

In recent years, foam rolling has gone mainstream. Once a self-massage technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists; foam rolling and using a massage gun such as the Hyperice is now an everyday practice for people of all fitness levels. There’s a reason for the popularity of this self-massage techniques: it’s simple and it works!

With the (usually foam-based) cylindrical muscle rollers now widely available in a variety of designs and firmness levels, there’s never been a better time to start. The massage guns are widely available gyms and varius web-sites. Prices range for a foam roller from $25-$90 and the guns range from $200- $400. Here’s what you stand to gain if you haven’t tried foam rolling or using the massage gun, and how to do it better if you’ve already started.

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is also called myofascial release. But what is fascia? And why do you want to “release” it? Fascia is the thin tissue that connects our muscles. Think of it as your body’s internal packaging—it helps muscle groups cooperate as integrated units. When it’s healthy, fascia is flexible, supple and glides smoothly over your muscles. But binding in your fascia can form for a variety of reasons, such as muscle injury, inactivity, disease, inflammation, or trauma. Even just sitting at a desk all day can get your fascia “gummed up” and stiff.

A foam roller is a simple cylinder (usually made of foam or flexible plastic) which you can lay on in a variety of positions, allowing your body weight to put focused pressure on affected muscle groups. Try rolling your quads, glutes, and hamstrings—or even muscles in your back, hips and shoulders. Rolling over problem areas can help release that built-up tension in your fascia and re-establish the integrity (and optimal performance) of muscle tissue.

Why is foam rolling so beneficial for endurance athletes?

When you are doing a highly repetitive movement such as running, swimming, or biking, you’re typically overusing some muscles and underusing others. The muscles that get overused tend to get tight, and a tight muscle doesn’t function properly. When you foam roll, you can help improve symmetrical (ideal) muscle function by ‘resetting’ tight areas. By taking a few minutes around each workout (and each day if necessary), you can help prevent imbalances that occur from endurance sports.

How to Foam Roll

It is better to be too soft than too hard. It might feel tender as you roll through the tissue but it should not be agonizing. To keep it simple and systematic, I like to divide the muscle that you’re rolling into three segments—bottom, middle, and top. Give each section a few passes up and down, move onto the next one, and then finish off by giving the entire length of your muscle a pass over.

With each pass through the muscle group, you can then work deeper into the tissue for more release. It is very possible to find several trigger points throughout your body. When you hit a spot that’s especially painful or tight, pause here and try to relax. Give it time and the muscle should release—anywhere from 5-30 seconds. For more precise areas, try something like a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. As you get to know your body and how it responds to foam rolling, you may go shorter or longer as needed.

When to Foam Roll

Foam rolling can be performed prior to and after your workouts. Before exercise, rolling will increase tissue elasticity, range of motion and circulation (blood flow). This can help you move better during your workout and protect you from injury.

Foam rolling post-workout is a great way to enhance recovery. Focus on all of the major muscles you just worked, with an extra emphasis on the areas that feel problematic. By stimulating blood flow in affected areas, you’ll dramatically increase oxygen to your sore muscle fibers and reduce recovery time. In fact, most elite athletes get massages regularly for this reason. While nothing can quite replicate a good sports massage.

When to use the Massage Gun

Why use the massage gun. The massage gun works to be another pair of hands that works for you. The massage gun has a fast percussion per minute with some of them up to 3200. The gun works on specific areas where the foam roller works on a broad area. I would recommend utilizing both pre and post workout or event. The massage gun again will re-set the fascia as we discussed above and help in specific areas of tightness. I like to gun specifically for my glutes and hamstrings to really find those trigger points and the gun combined with foam rolling helps to get things reset and you ready to go on your next workout.

 

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