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Roll with it!

published: 12-30-2013 Journal entry icon

Self-myofascial release, commonly known as “foam rolling,” has caught on in gyms and physical therapy clinics—and for good reason. It can help loosen tight muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (the covering of the muscles), increasing your range of motion (that is, how much your muscles and joints can move). Foam rolling can also reduce the muscle soreness that results from working out too hard or too long. One recent study found yet another benefit: If you foam roll before a workout, it can possibly reduce the fatigue you feel during the actual session, thus increasing the length of time that you can exercise or even how hard you work out. How does foam rolling work? More research is needed to understand all its effects, but it is known that muscles have specialized receptors called Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs) that are sensitive to changes in muscle tension, so when you roll over them, the muscles relax.

How do you get started? First, check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you to do, and then follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t foam roll over recently injured areas.
  • More density = more pressure, so choose a low-density foam roller if you are just starting, and then progress to one that’s more dense.
  • Foam roll over tension spots you feel in your muscles, or use continuous rolling over a muscle to loosen it.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time you roll over each muscle. Generally, one or two minutes per muscle group is recommended if you are just starting.

Roll on!


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