Why should you foam roll before stretching?

Sometimes when young goalies and hockey players are first introduced to Self Myofacial Release (SMFR) or Foam Rolling they balk. Being unfamiliar with the process they may consider it a waste of time and will not take the time to do it themselves for various reasons. The most common reasons:
• Takes too much time and I want to get to my workout
• It’s a waste of time it doesn’t really do anything
• I’d rather stretch.

The fact is once people take the time to learn what SMFR/ Foam Rolling is and its related benefits they understand its potential. It’s a simple and easy way to improve your quality of movement, intensity of training and make more saves with fewer injuries.

So let’s begin with a brief explanation of how your muscles and body move. Each muscle has individual muscle fibers that slide over one another when they contract making the muscle shorten. When the muscle relaxes it lengthens. In addition each muscle is covered in a thin membrane called fascia. This fascia is what allows muscle groups to slide over one another helping to make complex movements possible. No muscle or joint acts in complete isolation. When our muscles and fascia work smoothly we can move our bodies through their full range of motion. But every once in a while muscles and fascia get adhesions, knots or trigger points that interfere with the body’s ability to move properly through it’s full range of motion. We’ve all experienced this. For instance when you wake up and feel like you’ve slept on your neck wrong or a painful knot develops that doesn’t allow you to move a joint or muscle normally. Some times you are painfully aware of the trigger point and sometimes they lie hidden until you foam roll or get a massage. Either way they restrict your motion, inhibit the way you move and can increase the risk of injuries if they are not addressed. Trigger points can have many causes:
• Injuries or traumas
• Poor lifting form
• Poor Posture
• Repetitive movement patterns

What you need to know is that painful areas in the soft tissue will not go away unless you work on them. You can use massage, Active Release Technique or SMFR/ Foam Rolling to break up the adhesions and help restore normal length and function to your muscles and fascia. A lot of trigger points usually are reoccurring because they’re tied to your movement patterns. Foam rolling is usually the easiest and cheapest way to address and stay ahead of any trigger points that reoccur frequently.

Sometimes it can be painful when your roll out a trigger point. You should use an amount of pressure to roll that is comfortable. Using too much pressure can be counter productive as it can cause you to tense up due to the pain and the goal is to have your muscles relax and be restored to proper length. If you’re too tense when you’re rolling this won’t happen. It’s best to take your time and relax into the roll. Try to coordinate it with your breathing to get the most out of it for your body. As with anything else, the more you do it the more of a feel you get for it, and you’ll find that your trigger points aren’t as numerous or painful.

SMFR/ Foam Rolling can actually enhance your stretching. If your muscles and fascia are free of adhesions that restrict their movement and have been restored to their original length then they are going to have a fuller range of motion for stretching. It’s also why you should roll before you stretch. Trigger points are like knots in your muscles and fascia and when you try to stretch them before rolling it’s like pulling on a knot and making it tighter. It’s far better to untie the knot by rolling, massage and/or Active Release Technique and then stretch rather than to keep pulling the knot tighter. I’ve found this to be true in my experience in working with athletes. To make sure they get the most out of their stretches I always instruct my clients to roll before they stretch.

I use foam rolling a lot with my athletes to work on their knots wherever or whenever they occur so they can get the most out of their stretching and training program. There really is no right or wrong time to do SMFR/ Foam Rolling. I always include it in my clients programs at the beginning of their training sessions, but I’ll insert it in their workout if I feel it’s needed or at the end as part of the cool down. The best time to have quality movement is all of the time.

Please check out the videos that I’ve posted on SMFR/Foam rolling and other techniques. It’s just one of the things that will help you make more saves with less injuries.

Thanks,
Jim Adams

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