I recently picked up a new foam roller which is designed for myofascial release. "Myo" refers to muscle and fascia, in the most simplified way, can be imagined as a 3D net or web of connective tissue. The most superficial layer is underneath our skin, covering our muscles and stretching over our entire body. Fascia also runs to deeper levels and essentially helps to keep everything in place.
If I could carry my massage therapist in my pocket I would because I
believe massage is the best form of myofascial release but unfortunately
massage is not always a viable option. That's where self treatment
through foam rolling comes in. Whether its through injury, repetitive movements or even lack of activity and flexibility we develop "knots" and pain in certain areas of our body that eventually compromise our movements and range of motion. With the foam roller we basically use our body weight to roll over sore muscles. And if done correctly the result is heavenly.
There are various types and densities available but most recently I purchased the RumbleRoller. The RumbleRoller comes in two densities - Regular (blue) and Extra Firm (black). Many rollers have a smooth surface but what I like about this product are the large and dense bumps. As you roll over the surface it feels as if you are kneading your muscles so it's not a smooth ride. This is especially great on trigger points. I do caution you though that it can be painful so it may not be for everyone. The roller also comes with a picture instruction guide which is informative and helpful.
There are arguments and theories about whether or not we should stretch before exercise. Through my personal experience I feel better and notice greater range of motion when, prior to exercise, I roll over trigger points and hold for a few seconds until I feel some release. I then continue with a dynamic warm up. When muscles feel tight an imbalance exists so rolling allows for more balance when muscles contract and relax during a workout. Engaging in exercise with compromised form may be an injury waiting to happen. I always stretch post workout and I often get on the roller later in the evening when there is some time to relax.
Working on the roller is not always easy and can be challenging for some as it does require arm strength for certain exercises. Body composition is also a factor. I recommend that you always try the roller before you buy it. The idea is to feel better once you're done so knowing your body and understanding what we call "good pain" and "bad pain" is important. Bruising is not a good thing. Like most things, if you continue to do them on a regular basis they will become easier and you will feel better overall.
Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness./gena.