Whether you’re a beginner with fitness or a professional athlete, soreness is a normal part of exercise. However, regardless of sore muscles being a good sign, it can be discouraging for many. Luckily, there are some ways to combat it.
Foam rolling is a more recent discovery that seems to yield positive results on reducing muscle soreness. It is the act of rolling a cylindrical foam block over muscles for a short period of time with the aim to reduce tension.
There are two main approaches to foam rolling and ideas behind why it works. The first is that foam rolling targets fascia, which is connective tissue that covers our muscles. This approach believes that dysfunction can ensue from fascia tightness, and that targeting the fascia with foam rolling can offer relief.
The other approach believes that foam rolling increases blood flow, works out knots, and lengthen fibres in the muscles. Regardless of if foam rolling targets the fascia or the muscles, it has been proven to reduce muscle soreness and strengthen the muscles as well.
Something to remember when foam rolling is to roll over muscles or more ‘fleshy’ areas only. Rolling over bones can be detrimental and provides no benefit.
Some areas you can foam roll include calves, hamstrings, glutes/piriformis, IT band, groin, quadriceps, and back. Take extra caution when rolling your back, again remembering to not roll over your cervical spine or neck, and instead roll over only muscle.
Keep in mind that foam rolling can be painful; it is similar to a massage. Rollers come in many different variations, and it’s important to keep your pain tolerance in mind when choosing one.
Larger, softer surface area rollers will allow for a less painful session, whereas a more dense, concentrated roller will target deeper muscle. This depends entirely on your preference and tolerance for pain.
Overall, foam rolling is a great way to fend off sore muscles and increase muscle function. All foam rolling techniques can be integrated into either a pre-workout or post-workout routine, or simply a daily routine, regardless of exercise.