Foam rolling re­lieves ten­sion, tight­ness in mus­cles

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - MATT PARROTT

If you’ve ever won­dered why your fel­low gym­go­ers are sit­ting on a cylin­dri­cal ob­ject while rolling back and forth slowly, you’re not alone.

The first time I saw some­one writhing around on the floor, I al­most stopped to ask if they needed help.

Foam rolling is an ac­tiv­ity that spread as fast as any fit­ness trend I can re­mem­ber, and it is a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in most fit­ness cen­ters to­day.

Foam rollers come in all shapes, sizes and den­si­ties. Some have a tex­ture — lit­tle nubs — on the sur­face, while oth­ers are smooth. The va­ri­ety of foam rollers is mind bog­gling, so it’s not al­ways easy to eval­u­ate which roller is ap­pro­pri­ate. In my opin­ion, it’s best to start with a soft, smooth foam roller that takes up a lot of real es­tate. These are the eas­i­est to get used to and the least likely to cause any type of dis­com­fort.

And while we’re on that topic, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that foam rolling is sup­posed to cre­ate some dis­com­fort.

It doesn’t al­ways feel great, but it should not re­sult in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain. If that’s the case, you’re do­ing it wrong.

The tech­nique of foam rolling in­volves ap­ply­ing light to medium pres­sure to tar­get the mus­cle groups that are sub­ject to de­vel­op­ing tight­ness or ten­sion. Foam rolling should not be per­formed over a joint space, but along the length of a mus­cle and in a slow, con­trolled fash­ion.

It takes prac­tice to un­der­stand where spe­cific mus­cles tend to de­velop tight­ness and even more prac­tice to ap­ply foam rolling to the af­fected area.

The good news is, the risk as­so­ci­ated with foam rolling in­cor­rectly is min­i­mal. Your tech­nique can im­prove over time as you be­come more fa­mil­iar with your own anatomy, phys­i­ol­ogy and pain tol­er­ance.

This week’s ex­er­cise is a per­fect way to in­tro­duce foam rolling for those who’ve not tried it be­fore. The ham­strings are usu­ally among the stiffer mus­cles, and the foam rolling tech­nique re­quired is rel­a­tively easy to im­ple­ment, even for be­gin­ners.

1. Se­lect a foam roller and sit on the floor.

2. Cen­ter the roller un­der your left ham­strings.

3. Main­tain your bal­ance with both hands on the floor. Your left leg should be sup­ported by the foam roller only. Your foot should not touch the floor.

4. Bend the knee of your other leg for com­fort.

5. Use your hands to roll for­ward and back­ward — al­low­ing the foam roller to mas­sage sore ar­eas of the ham­strings.

6. Roll all the way un­til the roller al­most reaches the knee, then back the other di­rec­tion un­til you reach the gluteal area.

7. Roll back and forth for 30 sec­onds, then switch legs.

The best foam-rolling ex­pe­ri­ence should last two or three min­utes and in­volve two or three mus­cle groups. It’s not some­thing you have to ded­i­cate en­tire chunks of work­outs to­ward, but it is a valu­able method of man­ag­ing de­layed on­set mus­cle sore­ness while pro­mot­ing bet­ter flex­i­bil­ity and blood flow.

It’s more fun than stretch­ing and less ex­pen­sive than a mas­sage, and there are some of the ben­e­fits of both with foam rolling. Try it to­day!

Matt Parrott has a doc­tor­ate in ed­u­ca­tion (sport stud­ies) and a mas­ter’s in ki­ne­si­ol­ogy and is cer­ti­fied by the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine.

vball­[email protected]

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/CELIA STOREY

Beach­body mas­ter trainer Amy Ward does the Foam Roll Ham­string at Lit­tle Rock Rac­quet Club.

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