Decrease Your Risk of Injury With Foam Rolling

woman foam rollingDecrease Your Risk of Injury:  Foam Rolling

You can order them online, or find them in any sporting goods store.  They come in all shapes and sizes. What am I talking about? FOAM ROLLERS!

Although this tool is now readily available, many people still do not know how to properly use a foam roller to help them prevent injury.  I have now been in the training field for over 13 years, and it has only been the last 3 years where I have seen the wonders of using this magical prehab tool.  Now that I have found it, I refuse to let it go.

When my clients arrive in the gym, they are required to use the foam roller to release inelastic adhesions within their overactive muscles.  The overactive muscles that I typically see include the calf complex (gastrocnemius & soleus), the quadriceps, the gluteus maximus/medius, the latissimus dorsi, and pectorals.

Now, how does using a foam roller on functionally tight muscles or any muscles reduce your risk of injury?

The answer to that question is, foam rolling aids the body by increasing range of motion at the joint specifically related to the muscle being rolled.  Every joint of the body has an optimal range of motion.  When that range of motion becomes compromised, a person will be more susceptible to injury.

The pressure you add to your body, through the use of a foam roller, aids in breaking up adhesions within the muscle, thus allowing the remaining elastic muscle tissue to work more efficiently to produce the aforementioned optimal joint range of motion.

Let’s talk about my favorite muscle group to roll, the calf complex.

Adhesions in the calf complex can restrict range of motion of the ankle.  The optimal range of the ankle is 15° for walking and 20° to squat.  What does this mean to you? If you do not have this degree of flexion prior to exercise you are already working your way towards an injury!  Some of the common injuries associated with restricted range of motion are Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinopathy, Chronic Ankle Instability, and Ankle sprains.  These injuries are important to note because they will prevent you from being able to continue your training regimen.

Now we know why we need to foam roll, but how do we foam roll?

Sticking with the calf complex, it is typically the lateral aspect of the calf that is overactive and the medial aspect that is underactive.  When rolling your calf, it is important to turn your foot outward at a 45° angle.  Start with the foam roller above the ankle and allow it to roll in the direction of the knee.  I personally recommend rolling 1 inch towards the knee and then rolling ½ inch back towards the ankle as you work your way towards the knee.

If you experience an increase in pain in any particular spot during the roll, you should hold that area against the foam roller for at least 30 seconds to allow the adhesion to break up.  Finding the areas of greatest discomfort and allowing the foam roller to do its work is not pleasant, but it is necessary.

After foam rolling, you will see an immediate increase in the ankle joint range of motion.  Most people will end up rather close to the 20° necessary to squat.

Final Thoughts

Time is often a factor when attempting to exercise.  I typically block off an hour for a client, but in that hour of exercise, I make sure we begin our routine by setting aside 10 minutes to foam roll.  While I suggest that you foam roll prior to exercise, this tool can also be used post exercise to reduce muscle soreness post workout.

No matter what your fitness goal may be, there is always room to add the foam roller into your routine.  Time not spent rehabbing an injury is time spent working towards maximal gains and other fitness goal achievements!  Prehab is always better than Rehab!

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Author Profile: Kiel King Kiel King is the co-owner of Kings of Fitness. He graduated the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2004 with a BS in Chemistry and Life Sciences and a certification as a US Army Master Fitness Trainer. He graduated California University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with an MS in Exercise Science with a concentration in Rehabilitation Sciences and became a co-owner of Kings of Fitness. Kiel also holds the NASM CES, NASM PES, Trigger Point Therapy, and Advanced Exercise Nutrition certifications.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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