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How to Foam Roll – The Art of Self-Myofascial Release

Posted on 12th January 2018 by

Here’s a quick, no nonsense guide for runners to help improve your warm-up, performance and prevent injury with some simple foam rolling! It’s all about the fascia!

What is fascia?

Firstly, fascia is a dense connective tissue that surrounds every muscle, joint and organ in the body.

There are 3 types of fascia; superficial, deep and visceral.

  • Superficial fascia lies just beneath the skin.
  • Deep fascia penetrates and surrounds muscle tissue.
  • Visceral fascia helps keep vital organs in place.

Everything in the body is connected through fascia, but some areas are more connected than others, forming thickened sheaths and bands of fascia. These are bundled together, inseparable from the muscle tissue (myo) and it’s accompanying web of connective tissue (fascia), forming a 3D myo-fascial web throughout the body. Think of a 3D spider’s web in the shape of your body & you’re getting close!

When working optimally, this myo-fascial web helps provide support, stability, movement dynamics, force transmission and optimises sporting performance.

Why should runners foam roll?

Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller Foam rolling
We like the Grid Rollers from Trigger Point Therapy
  • For warm-up pre running, as it’s far more effective that static stretching (5)
  • To increase nutrient-rich blood flow to muscles that need it.
  • To improve the mobility and flexibility of muscles and joints (4,6,7).
  • To increase athletic performance (8,9).
  • To recover from exercise faster (1,2,3).
  • To reduce inflammation and remove toxins/chemical waste products.
  • Longer term, to break down adhesions in muscle and connective tissue.
  • You can also successfully self-treat minor injuries such as muscle strains and trigger points.

When should runners foam roll? 

  •  MB1 MB5 Trigger Point Roller Ball
    A great alternative to a foam roller is the MB1 or MB5 ball

    Before exercise: when paired with a dynamic warm up to increase blood flow to areas that may be lacking it.

  • After exercise: used within a cool-down procedure to flush out blood that has pooled in working muscles and to allow fresh nutrients and oxygen in to kick start the recovery process.

Rolling for only a few minutes can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your training session. So, if you’re stuck for time, pre-exercise rolling would provide most benefit.

How to foam roll

Remember this easy guide and apply it to each muscle group that you’re working on.

  • 4 linear rolls (to search the muscle for areas of tightness, we call these ‘hot spots’).
  • 30 second holds on each hot spot.
  • 4 joint movements (to move the muscle underneath the roller).
  1. Underside of the foot (plantar fascia)

TrP Foot roller Foam rolling

  • Place the roller under the sole of the foot.
  • Apply pressure and roll slowly towards the heel and back to the sole of the foot, 4 times.
  • Hold pressure on any hot spots you may find.
  • Once this hot spot starts to reduce, maintain pressure and add in movement of the toes by flexing and extending them all 4 times.
  • Repeat the process 3-4 times.
  1. Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)TrP Calf Roller
  • Zone A = achilles to mid-calf.
  • Zone B = mid-calf to just below the knee.
  • Roll zone A, followed by zone B.
  • Begin by sitting on the floor with the roller on your Achilles tendon.
  • Place your hands behind you and the other leg on top to add pressure.
  • Roll up and down searching for hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • You can also ‘span’ the muscle by turning your foot inwards and outwards whilst maintaining pressure on a hot spot.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times before moving on to zone B.
  1. Thighs (quadriceps)
  • Zone A = front of the hip to mid-thigh.
  • Zone B = mid-thigh to just above the knee. TrP Quads
  • Roll zone A, followed by zone B.
  • Begin by lying on your front with the roller at the front of your hip just below the bone.
  • Support yourself with your elbows out in front and the other leg bent up to the side.
  • Roll up and down in search of hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • You can also ‘span’ the muscle by turning your foot inwards and outwards whilst maintaining pressure on a hot spot.
  • Now, once on a hot spot, bend and straighten the knee 4 times.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times before moving on to zone B.
  1. Buttock (gluteals and piriformis)
  • Begin by sitting on the roller with your hands behind you for support.
  • Shift your weight onto one side as you bring that leg up and cross it over the other.
  • Aim to have the roller ‘in your back pocket’.TrP Glutes Foam Rolling
  • Roll along the length of your glute in search of hot spots. If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the process 3-4 times.
  1. Upper back (paraspinals, rhomboids, trapezius)
  • Lay on your back with the roller just below the shoulder blades.
  • Place your arms behind your head or cross them in front of your chest.TrP Upper Back Foam Rolling
  • Lift your hips off the floor and use your legs to roll up and down the spine.
  • Carefully extend your back over the roller.
  • Add in side bends to target various muscle groups.
  • Again, if any hot spots are identified, hold this pressure for 30 seconds before moving on.
  1. Chest (pectoralis major/minor)
  • Lay on your front and place the roller (or trigger point ball) just inside the shoulder joint, on the pectoralis tendon. Pec TrP
  • With the arm above the head roll up and down in search of hot spots.
  • If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Add in arm movements to manipulate the soft tissue underneath the roller. 4 straight-arm scoops should do it.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times.
  1. Latissimus Dorsi
  • Lay on your side with one arm above your head for support.
  • Place the roller at a 45° angle just underneath your armpit.Lat Dorsi TrP
  • Shift your weight to roll up and down in search of hot spots.
  • If any are found, hold this pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Add in straight arm movements to release the tissues further, 4 movements followed by 4 rolls.
  • Repeat this process 3-4 times.

References

  1. Pearcey GP, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto J, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015;50:5–13.
  2. Macdonald et al. (2014) Macdonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2014;46(1):131–142.
  3. Rey E, Padron-Cabo A, Costa PB, Barcala-Furelos R. The effects of foam rolling as a recovery tool in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;
  4. Bushell JE, Dawson SM, Webster MM. Clinical relevance of foam rolling on hip extension angle in a functional lunge position. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29:2397–403.
  5. Su H, Chang NJ, Wu WL, Guo LY, Chu IH. Acute effects of foam rolling, static stretching, and dynamic stretching during warm-ups on muscular flexibility and strength in young adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2016; 1-24.
  6. Kelly S., Beardsley C. (2016) Specific and cross-over effects of foam rolling on ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 11(4), 544-551.
  7. Macdonald GZ, Penney M, Mullaley ME, Cuconato AL, Drake CD, Behm DG, Button DC. An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27:812–821.
  8. Peacock CA, Krein DD, Silver TA, Sanders GJ, von Carlowitz KPA. An acute bout of self-myofascial release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014;7:202-211
  9. Monteiro et al. Acute effects of different self-massage volumes on the FMS overhead deep squat performance. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017; 12(1): 94-104.
  10. Monteiro ER Correa Neto VG. Effect of different foam rolling volumes on knee extension fatigue. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016;11(7):1076‐1081.

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Warming Up For Running – “Do I really need to?”

Posted on 8th January 2018 by

So, you’re ready for your next run. But before you set off, let’s consider the importance of a proper warm up.

If you’re an early morning runner and you’ve been led in bed all night, you’ll need to loosen up. Likewise, if you’ve been sat at work all day, you’ll need to prepare those joints and muscles for the physical activity that you’re about to put them through. Even if you have a physical job, getting yourself ready to run will not only improve your running performance, but it will help keep you free from injuries and increase your recovery rate.

So, warming up for a run is definitely important! But what’s the best way to warm up? 

Foam rolling

Love it or hate it, using a foam roller correctly has been proven to improve performance (1,2) and it’s a great way to prepare your muscles for running. From loosening up fascial adhesions to improving circulation, myofascial release with foam rolling is quick and effective and shouldn’t be left out of any warm up routine.

Using a foam roller (or a ball), stick to these six areas for the best whole-body release:

  1. Feet
  2. Calves
  3. Quadriceps
  4. Tensor fascia lata/TFL (hip flexor at the front of your hip)
  5. Lats (run from your armpit down the side of your body)
  6. Pectoral (chest).

Spending 60-90 seconds rolling each area will improve blood flow, release tension and will help identify any sore areas that may need some extra attention. If you’re not sure exactly what to do with your from roller or would like to learn how to use it effectively, why not some along to one of our foam roller workshops.

Mobility

How healthy are your joints? Simply moving a joint through its full range of motion will increase lubrication, open capillaries, improve circulation and facilitate coordination. Focus on your ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Here are some simple mobility exercises that you might do as part of your warm up.

Ankles: circle in each direction. Point the toes and bring them back towards the shins.

Knees: standing heel kicks to facilitate bending and extending the knees.

Hips: rotate one leg at a time in outward circles, before changing direction. Try to keep the circles as big as possible, as to challenge the full range of motion at the joint. Hold on to something if you’re balance isn’t great.

Lower back: laying on your back, bring both knees to your chest, squeeze and relax. Also try taking your right leg over to the left side with a bent knee to encourage rotation. Repeat on the other side.

Stretching 

Perform a few dynamic stretches after your mobility work. Dynamic means that you are stretching through moment (not holding a stretch).

Great examples of dynamic stretches include:

  • Forward lunge with a torso rotation.
  • Forward lunge with a torso side bend.
  • Bringing alternate knees to the chest and squeezing.
  • Alternating high kicks with a (fairly) straight leg.
  • Hamstring stretches with an arm scoop whilst gently walking forwards.

Try to avoid static stretching before physical activity. Research has shown that it can in fact be detrimental to athletic performance (3,4,5).

Muscle activation

Getting the right muscles firing before your run can help to maintain balance, symmetry and prevent injuries from occurring.

These exercises are fab for activating the muscles you need for running:

  • Calves: heels raises, skipping.
  • Quadriceps: lunges, bodyweight squats, tuck jumps.
  • Hamstrings: heel kicks.
  • Glutes: crab walks, side-to-side shuffles, or backwards shuttle runs.

Running backwards is a great way of activating those big gluteal muscles which continue to work when you turn around and run forwards (just make sure you’re in a hazard-free environment to prevent any unwanted falls).

Having your glutes activated will stabilise your hips, you’ll have greater propulsion when pushing off and your knees will be less inclined to fall in every time you plant your front foot. Not only will this make you a more efficient runner, but it will help prevent hip, knee and ankle overuse injuries from occurring.

So, here’s a summary for a runner’s guide to a quick, efficient warm up:

  • Foam Rolling – Quick six; feet, calves, quadriceps, TFL, lats and pecs.
    60-90 seconds on each, then move on.
  • Mobility Work – Move each joint through its full range of motion. Include ankles, knees, hips, lower back.
  • Dynamic Stretches – Active stretching with movement.
  • Muscle Activation – Calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.
  • Backwards running will help with your forward running.

References

  1. Peacock CA, Krein DD, Silver TA, Sanders GJ, von Carlowitz KPA. An acute bout of self-myofascial release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014;7:202-211.
  2. Monteiro et al. Acute effects of different self-massage volumes on the FMS overhead deep squat performance. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017; 12(1): 94-104.
  3. Chatzopoulos D., Galazoulas C., Patikas D., Kotzamanidis C. (2014) Acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on balance, agility, reaction time and movement time. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 13(2), 403-409.
  4. Lowery RP et al. Effects of static stretching on 1-mile uphill run performance. J Strength Cont Res. 2014; 28(1): 161-7.
  5. Costa PB, Ryan ED, Herda TJ, Walter AA, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque and the hamstrings-to-quadriceps conventional and functional ratios. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013;23:38–45.