Here’s a breakdown of three ways to improve the use of a foam roller:
#1: Don’t roll directly where you feel pain.
When we feel pain, our first inclination is to massage that spot directly. However, this might be a mistake. Areas of pain could be the victim that result from tension/ imbalances in other areas of the body.
Let’s take the IT band, for example. While religiously rolling out your IT band might feel good but the idea that you are going to relax or release the IT band is a misconception. The phrase roll out your IT band itself makes it sound like you are rolling out a piece of dough, but your IT band is anything but pliable. It’s a remarkably strong piece of connective tissue and can not be “rolled out”. To have an impact on the IT band you would have to look into the muscles who attach to it.If you iron out areas of inflammation, you can increase inflammation. And if you are in pain, your body will be too stressed to repair itself, or is guarding the area which does not decrees the muscle tone.
To improve: Go indirect before direct. If you find a spot that’s sensitive, it’s a cue to ease away from that area by a few inches or take off the pressure. Take time and work a more localized region around areas that feel sore before using larger, sweeping motions. For the IT band, work on the primary muscles that attach to the IT band first — specifically the gluteus maximus and the tensor fasciae latae (hip flexor).
#2: Don’t roll too fast.
While it might feel great to roll back and forth on a foam roller quickly, you’re not actually eliminating any adhesions that way. “You need to give your brain enough time to tell your muscles to relax.
To improve: Go slower so that the superficial layers and muscles have time to adapt and manage the compression. Feel where the tender spots are with the roller, and use short, slow rolls or stop and let it “melt”. “There’s no reason to beat up the whole muscle if there are only a few sensitive areas. Less is more in my opinion.
#3: Don’t spend too much time on those knots.
We’re often told that if you feel a knot, spend time working that spot with the foam roller. However, some people will spend too much time at the same area and attempt to place their entire body weight onto the foam roller. If you place sustained pressure on one body part, your body start protecting and keeps the tension on that muscle to decrees further damage.
To improve: Spend about 20 seconds on each tender spot then move on. You can also manage how much body weight you use. For example, when working your Quad muscle, plant the foot of your leg on the floor to take some of the weight off the roller or lean against a wall.
Happy Foam rolling!