I look at the foam roller and see a huge key - the key to unlocking tight muscles and helping me move better.
I am always rolling something. Not because I'm overly tight, but as self-maintenance. Cars need regular maintenance and people are no different.
Many people think that tight muscles are an indicator of their age. They wake up stiff and achy, then decide they should take it easy for the rest of their lives. Don't be in a hurry to give up. It may be that your muscles are a little stiff. If there were a way to relax them, you might feel able to do more.
There are guys at my gym whose grandkids can't keep up with them. Do they know some secret to feeling great all the time? No, just a few slick principles to keep them moving.
Foam rolling is one of those principles. When muscles are worked, they can become tight and "knotted." This will leave you feeling stiff and achy. Then you start to make old guy sounds when you sit and stand. Foam rolling can relax and reset those muscles.
Grab the rubber band your Las Vegas Review-Journal came in. See how it stretches. Now tie a knot in it. Notice that after it's knotted, that rubber band doesn't stretch as far. Now tie another knot and then another on top of that one. If you were to stretch it to its previous maximum limit it would probably break.
Muscles are similar. If you keep them in prime condition, not knotted, they will keep you moving for a long time. Besides feeling better, there are other benefits to using a foam roller as a maintenance tool. I have seen it help relieve pain in the knees and back. It helps increase range of motion.
For you weight lifters, are you stuck at a particular max weight and can't seem to lift more? Try rolling the primary and secondary muscles involved with your lift. It's possible to have as much as 30 percent of your strength tangled up in your tight muscles.
Tight muscles can be tender to the touch. That's useful when it comes to using the foam roller. I use a 1 to 10 pain scale with my athletes. One represents a little tenderness and 10 is through the roof.
My athletes will categorize the knots they find on this scale. I tell them to reduce the pressure on anything above an 8. Too much pressure can have the opposite effect and make the muscle tighten more. So be gentle and go slow.
Today, Laura demonstrates how to roll the lats and the back. These muscles can be the cause of serious pain and movement limitations. Tight lats can lead to bad posture and incorrect form when lifting. A tight back will do the same.
Back pain is fairly common. Foam rolling may be something you can do to reduce it on your own. I've found that combining today's illustrated back roll with rolling the glutes, as shown in my April 23 column online, can aid in reducing low back tension. Remember my rule, doctors always trump trainers. If you have severe lower back issues, ask your doctor before you start rolling.
Most gyms have foam rollers of varying densities. Choose the one that feels best for you.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.