Flexibility should never be ignored in a health and fitness program because it allows for better range of motion (ROM) in your muscles and tendons. As a result, you’re at lower risk for injury and you perform better during your workouts. There is more to flexibility than just the typical hamstring static stretch. I want to introduce you to the techniques of self-myofascial release (SMR), or better known as “foam rolling.”
SMR is implemented through a foam roller to relax and inhibit over-active and tight muscles. This is done by targeting the fascia, or connective tissue, that surrounds our muscles, bones, and joints. The way it works is that when pressure is placed on the tight muscle, a mechanoreceptor in the muscle-tendon causes the muscles to relax. This reflex is automatic to protect us from injuries.
You may foam-roll virtually any muscles that are tight or causing you pain, such as the calves, hamstrings, glutes, piriformis, lower back, ilotibial band, hip flexors, and upper back. As you roll slowly over the muscle, stop at any point you feel a knot or a slight cramping pain (trigger point), and hold that position for 20-30 seconds. You may repeat this three to five times on each muscle. Click on the video for step-by-step demonstrations.
It is very important to note, however, that you should not practice foam rolling if you are elderly, pregnant, have varicose veins on the legs or any musculoskeletal disorders. It could lead to severe health complications in these populations. As always, consult your physician before doing any exercise routines or movements.
Incorporate SMR in your program for just five minutes daily, and you will notice a decrease in muscle tightness and pain, improved ROM, and increased flexibility. Foam-rollers are light and very portable and you can purchase them through SPRI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Amazon.com.