The Foam Roller
A Great Recovery Tool for High Intensity Interval Training Classes
So, if you take our MRT Classes, you’ve heard me ask time and time again…do you have a foam roller of your very own at your house? You probably wonder why does DeShay ask this question every class. Well…“you want to have foam rolling as a constant in your exercise routine,” according to my friend, physical therapist and owner of Performance Plus Physical Therapy Danelle Dickson. Danelle and I got together to chat about foam rolling. Read on for the questions and answers from that discussion.
What are we physiologically doing with the foam roller?
There are two things you can do on a foam roller--myofascial release and trigger point release.
With myofascial release, it’s based on the concept that there is a saran wrap type of casing that surrounds muscles that we call fascia. Sometimes when you have an injury or do a lot of repetitive movements, or if you’re doing intense exercise, your fascia can get very tight. Myofascial release serves to improve the mobility of the fascia so that when muscles glide and slip over each other as they contract, it feels looser and is not restricted. So when you get a deep tissue massage or go to physical therapy and they loosen you up--that’s a lot of what they are doing. They are allowing those muscles to move in the right way that allows them to contract and relax correctly and efficiently.
The other thing that can happen on a foam roller is trigger point release. Trigger point release is based on the concept that there are tight bands in the muscles or knots in the muscles. When those become tight, they become painful. And it becomes painful and difficult for the muscle to contract and function well. So foam rolling can also help to release those tight bands, through something we call ischemic compression where we apply pressure to it. It decreases the blood flow temporarily to that tight band and allows the muscle to relax.
So those are the two things can happen when you use a tool such as the foam roller. Both allow you more blood flow into the muscle…a lot more motion and movement and mobility…and allows your muscles to feel loose and work in the right way.
What are the benefits of foam rolling for people taking MRT/HIIT Class or participating in any exercise routine?
If you are doing intense exercises like MRT/HIIT training, foam rolling should be part of your exercise routine. Movement and exercise explained from a biomechanical standpoint is really the result of pulley systems--where the muscles are the ropes. All muscles cross a joint and when they contract, they move or pull that joint around. As with any system, use over time will show wear and tear, which shows up as getting tight and over used. That over use can contribute to a lot of injuries, specifically when you look across the sports realm. So swimming, tennis, even interval training, aerobic training, running, sprinting, climbing--any of those activities where you’re doing the same motion over time over, and over again muscles not stretched properly do tend to get tighter. Tight muscles are an easy precursor to muscle imbalances, faulty mechanics and of course, injuries. So for that reason you want to have foam rolling as a constant in your exercise routine. This allows you not only to perform better but to also make sure you’re preventing any overuse injuries that can happen because of muscle tightness or imbalances.
What the ideal time to foam roll…before or after your workout?
A light warm up is always indicated before you start doing any sort of release work. So you ideally want to do something like light jogging, biking, and a comfortable walk on the treadmill at a pace that you get a little bit sweaty so that your muscles are warm. You can do actually your rolling before or after your workout. For the HIIT athletes, I’d probably go for after your workout. That’s when the muscles are the tightest, and you’re already warm. So it just makes sense to do it that way. It allows you to effectively target tight areas and then go through any stretching routine that you have afterwards to really allow your muscles to cool down and to relax into its best normal state.
What’s one key thing to keep in mind when using the foam roller?
The one tip that I can tell you is a lot of people do it too fast or don’t go through the actual length of the muscle. They miss the key trigger points or areas that allow that muscle to relax, so they’re really not getting an effective release. Done correctly, the foam roller is going to be a really integral tool in making sure that you have the looseness you need to allow the muscles to function well.