Foam rolling has become increasingly popular method of both recovery and pre-workout preparation for athletes. In this article I will examine what exactly foam rolling does, why it is useful for increasing your vertical jump, and provide a few practical examples of how to get the most out of your foam roller.
Foam rolling is a form of self applied massage more commonly known as self myofascial release. Basically you use your bodyweight to apply pressure to your muscles whilst you roll up and down on a piece of equipment known as a foam roller.
When you perform foam rolling what generally happens is that you find certain areas of the muscle that are particularly sore or tight as you move across them. These tight areas are sometimes referred to as trigger points.
When you find a trigger point you spend a few moments applying pressure to that point. At first it hurts quite a bit but as you maintain the pressure you find that the tightness eases and the pain subsides. With regular application of foam rolling to some of the more common tight spots or trigger points, an athlete seeking to improve his or her vertical jump will find that they become progressively less tight and sore and their movements will improve accordingly.
One of the biggest benefits of foam rolling is that compared to hiring a professional massage therapist to work out the knots in your muscles, you can quite cheaply do a pretty good job of it yourself in your own home. If I had unlimited funds I would still prefer to see a massage therapist, but unfortunately I don’t, and I am guessing neither do you.
You can use foam rolling both as a method to help recovery and as a pre-workout warm up. Whilst the basic method of use is the same for both requirements there are some slight differences in how you would use the roller.
Pre-workout you should spend your time rolling the full length of the muscle trying to generally lengthen and decrease any tightness you may have. Don’t worry too much about applying too much pressure to your trigger points, rather focus on working along the full length of the muscle. Perform between 20-40 full rolls per area.
As a recovery technique this is where you spend time finding the trigger points and applying the pressure to try and release the tension. When you first start rolling you will probably find that you have quite a few very sore trigger points and for the first week or two it might be worth doing more frequent and prolonged sessions. However after a few weeks of consistent work you can get terrific benefits in only 10-15 minutes a day.
The main muscle groups to focus your foam rolling on are obviously the muscles you are training the most. In terms of vertical jump work this is means the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
However there is another area that also benefits greatly from some time on the foam roller and this is the iliotibial band, or IT band as it is often referred.
The IT band runs along the outside of the thigh and with the constant pounding from running, jumping and lifting weights can often become irritated. Regular foam rolling work will help lengthen and loosen this area which can have enormous benefits in your ability to move freely and generate maximum power.
There are certain muscle groups that can are very hard to target using a foam roller due to the bone structure and the size of the muscle not being conducive to long, lengthy rolling movements. For vertical jumping athletes two groups that spring to mind in this category are the glutes and the bottom of the feet. These two areas are heavily involved in the jumping motion however and can certainly benefit from regular self myofascial relief.
In order to target these areas you need something a little bit more focused. In these instances it is better to use a small ball. I have a small rubber ball that I bought for about 50 cents that works beautifully, however tennis balls are fine and also work very well too.
The bottom of the feet in particular is a known area for fascial tightness. By rolling over that area you can make excellent improvements in movement quality pretty quickly. This area often surprises people with just how tight it gets.
Self myofascial relief is a great way to help reduce joint stiffness, muscle tightness, and general tenderness. It can be quickly and efficiently applied as both a warm up and a recovery technique, and best of all, a foam roller is pretty cheap to purchase.
The important points to remember is that excessive pain from foam rolling is not the way to go about it. Find your trigger points, apply a bit of pressure, and if that gets too sore, move on or apply less pressure. Over time you will find those areas get significantly less sore.
Regular foam rolling can be of great assistance in helping your muscles recover from the intense vertical jump workouts you have been doing. Whilst it may hurt a bit in the short term, in the long term you’re the added mobility and freedom of movement you can get makes it well worth the investment of time and effort.
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