What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a soft-tissue mobilization technique that continues to gain popularity among recreational athletes and highly competitive athletes alike. It is a tool that, when used properly, can help an athlete decrease fatigue and preserve performance capabilities.

Foam rolling is generally used to work on tight muscle and trigger points found in those muscles. It is thought to help loosen tangles in muscle fiber as well as the fascia (tissue that surrounds each muscle and runs throughout our bodies). As it does this, it can help maintain normal length of our muscles which helps to preserve and sometimes even gain range of motion.

When used prior to exercise, foam rolling is thought to improve blood flow as well. This benefit can be utilized as part of a pre-workout routine aimed at decreasing injury risk. This routine should include an active warm-up (light jog, running form drills, lunge matrix, etc), foam rolling, and light static stretching.

Foam rolling may shine even more when used following activity. Studies have shown that foam rolling decreases acute fatigue following exercise and can reduce an athlete’s RPE, or rate of perceived exertion. Physiologic and psychologic benefits such as these can help an athlete to maintain higher levels of relaxation and decrease fatigue from one hard workout to the next.

Individuals can use foam rolling techniques on the upper body and the lower body as needed. Some common areas to target for foam rolling your lower body include your calves, hamstrings (back of thighs), quadriceps (front of thighs), IT band (side of thigh), groin, and glutes. Common upper body muscles include your pectoralis muscles (chest), your lower back, and your upper back and latissimus.

A combination of some or all these areas may be important, depending on your activity of choice. Spending 5-10 minutes after exercise may help give you the edge you need to be ready for your next workout or event.

If you have any questions about foam rolling, give us a call at (616) 827-3010 to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of our physical therapists at the location nearest to you!


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Grant Fall