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Tissue Quality and the Foam Roller

Posted: 23 April 2012

When you go to the gym you see people lifting weights, running and stretching, but seldom do you see people working on their soft tissue quality using the foam roller. If you are lucky enough to see someone using the foam roller then chances are they don’t have clue what they are doing and are wasting their time. It is as if they are on holiday on the beach chilling in the sun. Now I don’t know about you but soft tissue work bloody hurts and isn’t a walk in the park!

 Like all training, soft tissue work using the foam roller needs to be specific with a purpose in mind. The purpose of using the foam roller is to improve soft tissue quality in areas where it is needed. If you suffer from a tight chest and you have an upper body workout planned today it makes no sense to roll your legs. You need to work on the quality of the soft tissue in your chest and for most people they would do good to spend some time in improving the quality of their upper back muscles also. So you might ask what is tissue quality and why is this important.

Tissue Quality and Why it is Important

Tissue quality is the state your muscles, tendons and ligaments are in. Bad soft tissue quality means the soft tissues of the body are tight, have adhesions and knots and are loaded with trigger points reducing the capacity and quality of work it can perform. Good tissue quality on the other hand is free of all those nasty things and is able to function optimally. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that you can ask more of a muscle in optimum condition than one that is not. Therefore increasing soft tissue quality is important for getting the most out of your training.

When to Use the Foam Roller

Some of you might have already figured out from what I wrote above that the best time to improve soft tissue quality is right before your workout. This however does not mean it is a waste of time to improve your soft tissue quality at any other time, it is merely best done before your workouts. Use the foam roller to massage the tissues of importance to your workout. This should be done very slowly as not to miss any tender bits.

The tender bits that you will come across is where you’ll want to focus your effort with the foam roller. Stop on the tender point and stay there till the pain has eased off by 50%. This should be repeated for all the muscles involved in your workout. When you are finished with the foam roller it is a good time to get straight into the warm up sets of your workout.  

Progressions

Just like we do with exercises you need to progress from the foam roller. The large surface area of the roller has its limitations. You progress from the foam roller by using a massage ball. The massage ball has a smaller surface area and can therefore get deeper into the tissue of interest. This will also hurt a lot more! Massage balls are also great for getting into the smaller muscles of the upper back which are harder to target with the foam roller.

There you have it. Get yourself a foam roller and a massage ball and start rolling. You will get more out of your workouts and you will feel a whole lot better in the process!

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By Bastiaan Gresnigt

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