Throughout the season, all the training, competitions and outside stress can lead to chronic soreness and impaired recovery. Built up tension in the body can make you feel “knots” in places that restrict your movement and even refer pain to other parts of your body. Along with proper sleep, nutrition and stretching, foam rolling plays a critical role in maximizing your performance. Foam rolling uses your own bodyweight against a cylindrical foam roller to produce some of the same positive effects on your body that deep tissue or sports massages provide, at a fraction of the cost. Foam rollers are inexpensive, easy to use, and can be taken anywhere.
So how does foam rolling help you? Fascia (particularly deep fascia) is a layer of fibrous connective tissue that surrounds muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Think of fascia as an elastic layer of tissue that helps the body keep shape and move with the different organs. Occasionally, due to muscle overuse, training, lack of stretching or disuse, the layer of fascia can stick to the muscle (a process known as adhesion). This can result in restricted movement, pain, soreness, and reduced exchange of nutrients and waste due to poor circulation of blood. The rolling motion produces a lengthening and release of the fascia along with the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesion to muscle. When the fascia releases, circulation to and from muscle tissue improves, and pain and soreness diminish as the body can process lactic acid quicker. This reduces post-exercise fatigue and increases range of motion by up to 10 degrees around a joint1,2!
Nick’s Video Series on Layover Foam Rolling is a great place to start learning your basic techniques on a roller, which can be useful in any pre-competition or pre-training scenario. When you begin rolling, you may feel discomfort with the pressure on your muscles, so go slowly. Focus on particularly knotted areas for a longer time (30 seconds), but don’t overdo it. I generally foam roll for about 5-10 minutes prior to warm up. Any time of day is perfect, but foam rolling before and after exercise will impact your performance and recovery the most. White rollers are soft, blue or green are medium, and black or purple ones are firm. The travel-sized roller is ideal for athletes to take to travel meets. Integrate rolling into your pre-meet routine and you will feel the difference in your warm up and your races!
1. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):61-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182956569.
The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance.
Healey KC, Hatfield DL, Blanpied P, Dorfman LR, Riebe D.
2. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):812-21. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2bc1.
An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force.
MacDonald GZ, Penney MD, Mullaley ME, Cuconato AL, Drake CD, Behm DG, Button DC.
BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.
Nick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s athletes have won 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology.
The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.