You might have seen people at the gym laying down on the floor with their legs resting on a black cylinder grimacing at the pain. Have you ever wondered what it is they are doing?
They are foam rolling aka Self Myofascial release. It is similar to a deep tissue massage except you don’t have to pay $50+ bucks for someone else to do it for you. The science behind foam rolling is autogenic inhibition which incorporates pressure on a knot in a muscle for a certain amount of time to improve soft tissue extensibility. Whenever you use a foam roller you put the desired body part and roll around until you find a tender spot, you then hold it on this tender spot for no less than 30 seconds for your muscle to relax. It’s actually a pretty cool thing because you can actually feel your muscle relax.
What is happening is the muscle spindle senses changes in fiber length and to protect the muscle from damage it shortens it. What this actually does is increases muscle pain and it also alters your length-tension relationship which creates muscle imbalances in your body. This is not a good thing because it throws off your kinetic chain. Think of your leg muscles, you have your quadriceps on the front of your legs and your hamstrings on the back of your legs. If your hamstrings are really tight and your quads are really weak then your hamstrings are always going to be pulling and your quads are not strong enough to overcome your hamstrings from pulling. Therefore this places stress on your ligaments when you are in an uncompromised position and you might end up tearing a ligament. Whenever your muscle spindle senses a change in length it contract the muscle, if you place pressure on it for no less than 30 seconds the Golgi Tendon Organs will kick in and release the muscle spindle therefore making it relax. This will in turn decrease pain and it will restore proper length-tension relationship getting your kinetic chain back in check.
The main areas to foam roll are your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, TFL (side of your legs) and your IT band. Be forewarned the TFL and IT band are very painful but the benefits outweighs the pain. Foam rolling feels wonderful after you are done and reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), altered length-tension relationships, and reducing muscle imbalances are all very good things for your body, because nobody wants to walk around in pain leaning to one side.