A trend that has grown in the fitness industry of recent years is called foam rolling, or as some people might call it self-myofascial release (SMR). However, what it does is still a question we must explore.
There are a couple of schools of thoughts regarding SMR. The first school of thought is the idea that SMR is a way to help break scar tissue. The other school of thought is that SMR stimulates proprioceptive organs within our soft tissue called Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles to tell essentially tell our brain that a muscle is overactive, and, for lack of a better term, needs to be turned off.
For myself, I used to think that the first school of thought was the correct one. However, I have come to learn that to break up scar tissue and fascia the amount of pressure and force needed to be applied is not something that can be achieved through foam rolling. However, the idea that foam rolling can help inhibit muscles that are chronically "turned on" is something that is truly valid.
You see our daily living makes some muscle groups more active than others. For instance, sitting here writing this up, my hip flexors are turned on, my pec minor is pulling my shoulders forward, and my neck is craning forward. If I do not take care of these muscle groups, eventually I will find these muscles become very tight and affect my quality of movement.
This is where foam rolling, and SMR becomes the most valuable, inhibiting these muscles, so that I may activate the right muscles and thereby improve my movement.
The following are videos demonstrating areas I find are key to foam roll:
The Foot - You can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.
Calves - This is best when using a foam roller and one leg.
Finally, when you are done foam rolling the essential part is to get moving. If you foam roll an area and do not then seek to use your new found ranges of motion, then you may as well not even be foam rolling.
Suffice to say, foam rolling is helpful, especially as it pertains to helping us enjoy the subsequent workout and movement that follows.