If you’ve stepped foot into a gym before, you’ve seen these. You may not have used one yet (shame on you), but you’ve at least seen one.
If you’ve ever used one of these then you know that, like John Mellencamp used to say, they “make it hurt so good.” On the one hand, if you’re putting enough weight on them, they hurt like a son of a bitch (especially on a sore, or God forbid, a bruised muscle). But, after you’re done, you feel like a brand new man (or woman – I’m not sexist, I don’t think). But, what exactly do they do?? Yeah, you feel better, but what’s really going on in your muscles? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Think of a foam roller almost as an iron for your muscles. Just as the iron takes care of your clothes after your forgot to fold them, the foam roller takes care of your muscles after you break them down working out. When we exercise, we develop both swelling and microtears within our skeletal muscle. This swelling can sometime impinge on nerves and vessels going to the muscles. Over time, this can develop into scar tissue if left untreated. Fortunately, we’ve got our handy dandy foam rollers. Essentially what they do is smooth out all of the scar tissue (and possible adhesions) left from microtears and swelling. When scar tissue and swelling have been removed (or at least lowered) our blood vessels can open back up and deliver more blood back to the muscles.
The end result of foam rolling, through various mechanisms, is increased blood flow to the muscles. This is very important because blood carries many substances that are important for muscle recovery after workouts. If we can increase this blood flow, then we can help our muscles recover a bit quicker from workouts.
Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks/months as I will post some videos showing you how to use your foam roller on different muscles groups.