A Proper Warmup: Should I Foam Roll?

Tightness through the tissue that connects your bones, muscles and joints together is a major cause for pain and injury. While the foam roller may not have had much use in the past, our current 21st century lifestyles promote body dysfunction and tightness in all the wrong places and adding weight training to a dysfunctional movement can end in tragedy. Strategic use of a foam roller can provide major benefits to your exercise session.

The Science
While it’s true that some people can just get up and hop in to a workout, the majority of us need some time to warm, lengthen and activate the right muscles to restore proper body function. Many pains that have been attributed to arthritis are actually just tightness. In fact, for many of us, the warm-up is the most important part of the entire workout because it allows the many muscles of our body to fire in the right sequence to produce force. While it can be easy to assume that the body simply “uses the legs” to do an exercise like a squat, the reality is that your body does a complete head-to-toe balance of every muscle and that a major imbalance through a single joint can throw the entire system out of whack. In a properly functioning body, the muscles of your feet, upper/lower leg, butt, core and shoulders will all work in time but activities such as prolonged sitting can cause tightness in areas like the front of your hips.

Tightness in the front of your hips isn’t usually a big deal except that the body has built-in reflexes that turn muscles on and off based on tightness. For example, take your arm from relaxed to bicep curl. The bulge on the top of your arm (the biceps) will tighten and the opposite side of your arm (triceps) will relax. If this reflex wasn’t designed in to your anatomy, you wouldn’t be able to move your joints.

The Application
Foam rollers should be used on most people prior to exercise. Approximately 30 seconds rolling on a muscle will help to warm, lengthen and release tightness. Common areas that need foam rolling are the front of the chest, tops of the shoulders and under arm pits for shoulder or neck pain; fronts of the hips, side of the butt and inner thigh for knee and lower back pain. Start your session by selecting 3-6 places to foam roll, stretch those areas after, then walking on a treadmill in all four directions to help the body use its new found pattern.

The Takeaway
These cylindrical pieces of foam can take away aches and pains and help you get more out of your exercise session. They can be picked up at nearly any sports store and in our opinion, they should be part of everyone’s body care arsenal.