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We have been using foam rollers for several years now with our clients and believe they provide multiple uses for improving how the body moves. They come in a variety of lengths, colors, textures (grooves, smooth, ridges) and densities that all provide various amounts of pressure to your muscles.

Following are some benefits that you can experience from using a foam roller in your fitness program.

  1. “A foam roller can help reduce tightness in muscle and connective tissue. If muscle tissue on one side of a joint is too tight, it can restrict that joint’s range of motion and change the ability of surrounding muscles to control movement. There are two theories about how foam rolling reduces tightness: (1) the roller places tension on the muscle, which sends a signal for the muscle to relax and lengthen; and (2) the friction from moving on the muscle increases heat in the muscle, causing it to lengthen. The bottom line is that using a foam roller can be an effective form of stretching that reduces tightness and increases muscle length.”
  2. “Using a foam roller can help break up the collagen adhesions responsible for creating “knots” in muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is organized in layers; collagen is an inelastic connective tissue found parallel to muscle fibers. Collagen helps increase the tensile strength of muscle tissue, thus lowering the risk of strain injuries like a pulled muscle. A sedentary lifestyle with minimal amounts of physical activity means that, instead of sliding against one another, as happens during movement, the layers of muscle tissue rest against one another. If a muscle is not regularly lengthened, collagen will bind between the layers and restrict the ability of the tissue to lengthen and shorten. Using a foam roll can break up the collagen adhesion and ensure that layers of muscle tissue have the ability to slide against one another.”
  3. “A foam roller can be used during the warm-up component of a workout to reduce muscle tightness; as part of the post workout cool-down to help muscle return to a normal resting length, or between workouts to help reduce overall muscle tightness and improve feelings of relaxation.”
  4. “Reducing muscle tightness can help you move into a complete range of motion, allowing you to improve your overall mobility. For example, using a foam roll to reduce tightness in the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles on the front of the thighs can help you increase mobility of the hip joints, allowing you to experience a deeper range of motion during a squat or lunge. Likewise, reducing tightness in the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf) muscles responsible for creating plantar flexion (pointing your toes) can allow the lower leg (tibia and fibula) to experience greater forward movement during the downward phase of the squat.”

Bottom line, foam rollers are very useful for reducing muscle tightness and improving overall flexibility but they take a bit of skill and knowledge to use them properly. For example, you NEVER want to roll over a joint (the knee, etc.) or don’t spend too much time on those “knots” to name only a few. If you have never used a foam roller or have questions on how to use one please consult us or a knowledgeable health professional to get the pros and con’s before you start rolling your body.

Pete McCall, June ACE Fitness; Thomas Myers; Dr. Mercola, Peak Fitness