Free deep tissue massage with foam roll!
(aka Self Myofascial Release (SMR), aka Trigger Point Massage, aka Tool-Assisted Self Manual Therapy)
I know it sounds serious, but I will break down the science, just as the foam rolling breaks down the tight fascia.
Fascia is, according the the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, “the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that both penetrates and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures, and extends from head to toe, from front to back, and from surface to deep, in an uninterrupted three-dimensional web…”. My favorite analogy to use with clients, as an attempt to distract them from the pain they feel during their foam roll experience, is that FASCIA IS THE WRAPPER OF THE TOOTSIE ROLL IF THE TOOTSIE ROLL REPRESENTS YOUR MUSCLE. If the wrapper is too tight or restricted, no amount of static stretching (the way we think of holding a muscle in a fixed position) will alter movement most efficiently.
Foam rolling is a common form of self-myofascial release that can be used prior to a workout to improve flexibility or after a workout to reduce muscle soreness and promote quicker recovery. The foam roll used in the photos looks just as it sounds, but in therapies of fascia release, tennis/baseballs, soda cans, etc. can be used, as well.
Self-myofascial release increases short-term flexibility, and when performed consistently, SMR may be able to change flexibility long-term! Further, the more you foam roll, the less it hurts, because the tissue will become softer and more pliable. Believe me, from the first use, it seems masochistic to continue the process, but it is worth it.
A myofascial “trigger point” is tenderness in taut muscle that can produce a localized or referred pain. It would be like the pea under the mattress in the widely known Hans Christian Andersen’s play, Princess and The Pea, wherein a small spot can be felt amongst other layers. Typically, when we foam roll, however, our purpose is to address the large tissue as a whole. We do not isolate the trigger point on our calf, as much as rolling the entire lower leg.
I like clients to use this system of stretching because “relaxing” the tissue surrounding the muscles will allow them to move better immediately before our session, and by extension, build and recover more successfully.
How do you know if you are doing it correctly? If you feel some discomfort or extreme tightness. If you feel excessive sharpness, lessen the pressure. If you feel nothing, have someone assist you; perhaps, by adding weight to the roll in the affected area. Before I knew how to do it, I thought I had the most elastic muscles in the world, because I felt “nothing”. Once I realized the correct way to do it, I wondered why anyone would put themselves through the pain. I see people with classic injuries that could have been prevented by or presently treated with FOAM ROLLING.
Any gym should provide you with the rolls, but they are easy to use at home, as well. At the very least, lying vertically on the roll for a minute or so can relax the muscles along the spine. Those muscles get compressed throughout the day by sitting in our chairs and not receiving stretching to maintain desired flexibility. That is the most basic way to begin your experience with this piece of equipment.
Peace, Love, Fitness, and in this case, no excuses.