Benefits of Foam Rolling and Foam Rolling Classes

Get on a roll

Foam rolling
Rolling the upper back. Laura Williams

If you haven't hopped on a foam roller yet, it's time to give it a go. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial releaseĀ or self-massage. Athletes and non-athletes alike suffer from muscle tightness, imbalances and "trigger points" that occur when contracted muscle fails to release. These adhesions, or knots, can lead to poor circulation of blood and nutrients to the muscle fiber, which can eventually lead to pain or injury.

Pliable muscles are healthy muscles, so it's important to take steps to loosen up those knots.

And while I'm sure you might prefer a deep massage a couple times a week, it's simply not an affordable option for most people. Foam rolling opens up an avenue for serious muscle work without the expense of a personal masseuse.

Foam rollers are exactly what they sound like - cylindrical rolls of dense foam that you can lean on and roll over to create a self-massage. They were first used in the therapy industry, but started popping up in fitness centers in the 2000s, and are now commonly-accepted pieces of equipment used to massage, stretch, and even strengthen the muscles.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

The benefits of foam rolling are many. Adhesions occur when muscle fibers "stick" to muscle fascia - a sheath of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles - resulting in a knot of tissue that limits the circulation of blood, nutrients, and the elimination of waste, and can lead to pain and injury.

When you use a roller to roll along the length of your muscle, you're helping lengthen and release these "sticky points," enabling your muscles to return to their original and intended length. The overall result is:

  1. Improved circulation and delivery of oxygen, nutrients and blood to the muscle. This helps your muscles to function at optimum capacity, to recover efficiently, and to remove waste products effectively.
  1. Decreased pain and soreness. Many muscle knots are painful! They're either painful to the touch, or because of where they're located, they're painful during movement, which can result in altered range of motion.
  2. Decreased likelihood of injury. An altered range of motion due to painful knots or a shortening of the muscle fibers due to persistent contraction can lead to muscle imbalances and injury. Rolling out the knots and keeping your muscles long and pliable reduces the likelihood of injury.
  3. Increased range of motion. Regular use of a foam roller can even help you increase your range of motion as you loosen up tight areas and help clear scar tissue.
  4. Cost-effective therapy. You may not be able to afford three massages a week, but you can probably afford a foam roller (even brand name options cost less than $100). It's a one-time purchase you can use over and over again.

Benefits of Taking a Foam Roller Class

I'm no stranger to foam rolling. Aside from the fact that I've owned and used a foam roller for years, I actually attended a short training at Trigger Point Performance to learn more about how to use a foam roller correctly.

But when I had the opportunity to take a class on Foam Roller Fusion at the Lake Austin Spa Resort, I jumped at the chance. Here's why:

  1. I don't roll often enough.
  2. I don't roll all my muscle groups.
  3. It's really nice to have someone else take you through a program.

It's that last reason that's particularly important. As I get older, and as my life gets busier, I'm drawn more and more to classes where I don't have to think about creating my own program, or motivating myself to keep going - when someone else is leading, I just follow along.

And I have to say, the class I took was phenomenal. The instructor, Dr. Katherine Coffee, took us through a progressive series of rolling exercises, some of which I'd done before, and some of which were new to me. I especially appreciated the exercises focused on opening up the shoulders, chest and arms, as most foam roller exercises focus on the lower body. The class lasted a full 50 minutes, so I had the time to really work into my muscles, identify problem areas, and focus on releasing the tightness that frequently leads to pain.

I would highly suggest a foam roller class to anyone who is new to foam rolling, or to those, like me, who skip the practice too often due to "lack of time." A class will force you to make the time, learn new movements, and prioritize muscle health beyond the weight room. If your local gym doesn't offer a foam roller class, check out some of the free workouts available on Grokker.

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