There are many modes used to perform self-myofascial release including deep tissue massage, massage sticks, lacrosse balls, and the mode I will be addressing the foam roll. Foam rolling has become increasingly popular in the fitness realm, appealing to clients/patients of all ages and ability. This piece of equipment is a cylindrical piece of hard-cell foam best used on a flat surface. By applying pressure to these fibrous adhesions (web-like connective tissue surrounding human anatomy in response to trauma) we are able to reduce the level of restriction by restoring muscle length and taking pressure off of pain sensitive structures (i.e.- nerves, pain receptors). This in turn allows for a wider range of motion and therefore improved flexibility.
Foam rolling is a particularly attractive option because all you need is the roller itself. By altering your position on the roller you are able to adjust the pressure throughout the targeted musculature. The general instructions for foam rolling are to try and hit all the large muscle groups. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, back muscles, calves, and glutes. It is advised that you experiment with foam rollers of different densities to find one that is comfortable for you. A softer foam roll is recommended for beginners and those with nerve issues or a low tolerance to pressure. As your body begins to adapt to this process you should increase the density of the roller.
Foam rolling can be utilized as part of a warm-up because of the isometric positions you must hold while performing. These isometrics, similar to a plank position, improve blood flow to musculature and improves neuromuscular facilitation better preparing you for your workout.
Start by rolling along the entire muscle finding tender spots. Roll each desired area 5 times per minute (slow and steady pace) and switch to the next position. As always remember to work within a comfortable range and ask questions if needed!
For examples of foam rolling view:
Blog post by Evan Healy.