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Foam Rolling: What the hell is it doing? And why you should care.

Every athlete in every sport has at some point come across a foam roller, lacrosse ball, and a myriad of other tools that we use to self-administer soft tissue work.

But why? Are we breaking up muscle knots? Moving or stretching fascia? Breaking up scar tissue?

No. It’s not that easy.

The human body is extremely resilient. The thought that putting your body weight through a semi-rigid foam roller over your calf muscle could truly “release” the knots/fascia/scar tissue is a marketing dream. If we go down this rabbit hole I would argue anyone who puts a barbell on their back should no longer have any tissue restriction in their neck and traps and be pain-free at all times. If only it was that easy!

Any type of soft tissue work, joint mobilization/manipulation, dry needling, banded distractions (this list could go on and on) all have the EXACT same purpose in the world of movement science.

  1. Reset

  2. Reinforce

  3. Re-train

The treatment (e.g., foam roll, needle, massage) causes a RESET to our system. This new input into our nervous system forces us to reintegrate and reassess the tissue. This creates the “Holy Grail” in the world of rehab and preventative medicine. A small window (about 45 minutes) where things DO feel different. Maybe there is less pain, more movement, and better muscle contractility.

Next, we must REINFORCE. This is where the term “corrective exercise” has taken off. Here we aim to put stress on the tissue through some type of load or resistance. This again puts more input into our nervous system. If the input does not cause “pain” or even if there is just less pain (because we did a great job with our reset) then the output will be different!

Finally, we get to the fun stuff. Re-train. Now we take the newly RESET system, take advantage of that to REINFORCE our movement patterns, and gradually RE-TRAIN our system to get stronger in these newly acquired movement patterns.

This process is obviously simplified. Changing our movement patterns requires a sustainable and consistent program. Our bodies have responded to the daily stresses we have placed on it every day 24/7/365. But if we take this systematic approach and apply it to our programming day in and day out, your system WILL respond!

Are you ready to take a systematic approach to prevent injury, rehab current aches/pains, and reach your optimal level of performance - all for less than 50 cents a day?


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