There is still some debate in the fitness industry on the actual effects of foam rolling. What we do know is that you can manipulate muscles to make your body move optimally. Foam rolling is actually just self-massage, or myofascial release. You can use it pre workout, or post workout for recovery. The focus of this blog will be on the effects of foam rolling pre workout.
Our bodies are incredibly resilient in that they will respond to what ever stimulus they are introduced to. If you do 10 push ups a day, your body will build the muscle to make sure you can do 10 push ups. If you run 5 miles every day, after time you will be able to easily run 5 miles. If your body is constantly in a bad position (sitting at a desk) it will conform to that position. Your body responds to what ever you consistently do, whether it be good or bad. If you move a lot you will get good at moving. If you don't, you'll get good at not moving...
What we see with a lot of clients is that they struggle to get the arms into an ideal position overhead. This has a lot to do with the fact that everything we do with our hands is in front of us. If we don’t spend time stretching our arms behind us or overhead we slowly loose the ability to move our shoulders to their full range of motion.
For the example below we used the overhead position. Ideally you are able to get your biceps next to or past your ears, with out excessive lumbar extension or your rib cage flaring forward. Two of the main muscles that affect your ability to get your arms in a good overhead position are the Lats and the Pecs. Both attach into the front of your shoulder, and can draw the shoulders forward when they are tight.
Our goal with foam rolling isn’t to make you move perfectly, but to try to get you moving more efficiently. For the lats we used a traditional foam roller, for the pecs we opted for a lacrosse ball. We allowed one minute for each muscle group and each side for a total of 4 minutes. One minute is the absolute minimum you should spend on an area in which you wish to create change.
The first set of pictures were taken pre rolling. The client on the left has decent range but has room for improvement while the client on the right is already in an optimal position. The pictures below show their results.
Focusing on the client in black, take a look at the first photo. The top of the ear is visible and the fingertips are pointing up and away from her. In the second photo the ear is hidden behind the bicep and the fingers are pointing straight up.
Looking at our client in white, it's a little harder to see the change because she had good range (even minor improvements are improvements). In the first photo look at the position of her arms in relation to her ponytail, and again the direction of her finger tips. The first photo shows the entire ponytail from the hair tie out and the fingertips pointing straight up. In the second photo the band is covered, and the fingertips are angled slightly back behind her.
With both clients we were able to create a more optimal position in only 4 minutes. Rolling the Lats and the Pecs releases the tension on the front of the humerus and allows the shoulders to reach a better position.It still may not be perfect, but it can be better then when you walked in the door. There are plenty of simple hacks that can drastically reduce the risk of injury and allow you to get that much more out of your workouts.
So how can you use foam rolling to your advantage? If you know you are going to be pressing overhead in your workout, take 5 minutes to roll your lats and pecs. If you are going to squat, take 5 minutes to open hips and loosen up your legs. Warm up what ever you are targeting that day and focus on making your body move better!
Don't know where to start with any of this? Contact us for an assessment!
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