You have probably started to see those foam rollers popping up in your local gym. I try to avoid the big box gyms so I am not sure if they have made it to that level yet, but most of the private training studios I visit are using foam rollers.

Do you know exactly what they are for?

If you said they improve your flexibility, then you are right.  Do you know how they do that?

Part magic…

myofascial release for athlete trainingWell the truth is part of it has to do with your fascia (the connective tissue that encases every single muscle fibre and creates your tendons) and the other part is pretty much just magic.

So let’s deal with the fascia part of the equation first – fascia has more sensory nerves than muscle, it is a continuous fibrous network that can transmit force and information from the bottom of your foot all the way up to your glute and beyond.

Fascia can also bond down to the underlying muscle tissue which means that no matter how much you stretch, you will not gain flexibility in those areas.  Dr. Thomas Myers who was the first person I ever heard talk about fascia has a great saying that goes something like this – – habit becomes posture and posture becomes structure.

So if you sit with crappy posture all day, your fascia will think that is the shape you are meant to be and will create a framework to keep you there and support you in that position – not cool at all.

So we get in there with foam rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls or other sinister devices and try to free the fascia from the underlying tissue.

Does it really work?

Now some will argue that foam rolling does not actually do this and that it just increases our tolerance to rolling which is why we feel better over time, I don’t really care much about that because I see improvements in flexibility when we use foam rolling to train athletes as a part of our warm up.  Which leads me to the magic part.

Acting on the tissue in one area will have an impact on the flexibility in other regions of the body.  I am not going to debate how or why or what, I am just going to let you see for yourself.  So, let’s do a two-minute experiment, yeah, I love experiments.

Here is a video to show you step by step what to do – make sure you test your flexibility before you roll the ball on your foot.  I also have step-by-step instructions below as well if you prefer that.

If you cannot see the video in the player above, just click the link below…

Step 1. Take off your shoes.

Step 2. Stand with your feet together and your knees locked straight.

Step 3. Bend forward without rounding your back, so just hinge at your hips.  Make a mental note of how far you get.  Can you touch your toes? Your knee caps? You get the idea.

Step 4. Get a lacrosse ball, golf ball, squash ball, tennis ball, any kind of smaller ball.

Step 5. Roll the ball on the bottom of your bare foot, from the base of your toes to the heal, all over the bottom surface.  Use enough force that it is mildly uncomfortable, but not painful.  Roll for 60 seconds on each foot.

Step 6. Re-evaluate your flexibility – see Step 3.

Step 7. Revel in the magic of science 🙂