The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 13
Muscle soreness is part of the training game, but it doesn't have to be debilitating. Learn about foam rolling, and you can get back in the action quicker!
If you're still sore from your ramping set workout two days ago, we apologize! Many people find that when they experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it's actually worse two days after training than it is the first day. This may seem unfair, but it's really common.
But if you're rubbing a tender chest or lat muscle as you read this, hearing that you're not the only one isn't much consolation. You want to know how to make it better! And we can help there, too, because today, you're going to learn about self-myofascial release, also known as "foam rolling."
Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness: Day 13
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Day 13 Challenge
- Perform another "ramping" workout, this time for the upper body.
- Learn about foam rolling, and try it if you've got a roller at your gym or house.
Roll With It
There are a number of different self-release techniques, all with the same goal: to help spur the natural healing processes of your soft tissues. These techniques apply pressure to the tight muscle tissue, which it interprets as "Danger! Too much tension! Relax!" This causes a reflexive reaction that simultaneously causes the muscle to lengthen and relax. Effectively, it could be thought of as a light switch that turns off a muscle that is in danger of hurting itself. Although, to be clear, we aren't putting muscle in danger!
The concept of what we are doing is the same as that of a deep-tissue massage. The main difference is that it doesn't cost much since you do it to yourself. There are various ways to incorporate this technique into your training, but the most common method is foam rolling either before or after your workout.
Before a workout, rolling can be a great way to increase your mobility and range of motion in the area you're working—for example, rolling your quads and IT band before leg training. After training, plenty of people find it helps them recover or avoid that "restless leg" feeling that can come with hard lifting or cardio.
How much tightness you have and how much discomfort you can handle will determine what device or surface you can roll out on. The white foam rollers, which are probably the most common, are a good place for inexperienced people to start.
Someone who has been at it awhile may find those too soft and prefer something harder, like a black foam roller or knobby rumble roller. With time, experienced trainees will use everything from foam rollers to PVC pipe and lacrosse balls to help them target specific muscles.
These are probably the five most common muscle groups people foam roll:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Gluteus maximus/minimus
- IT Band
Here's how to begin: Lie down on the floor. Apply pressure to the middle or "belly" of the muscle you want to work, using your bodyweight to increase the compression. Slowly roll over the muscle, pausing on "hot spots" when you find them for about 20 seconds. Don't roll over the joint itself; stay on the muscle.
An important key here is to relax. You won't want to, because if you have any tightness then this will be uncomfortable and you will attempt to brace yourself. Don't do it. Find your happy place, breathe deep, and relax. This will take experimentation, so be patient and try to learn to enjoy the pain!
Need more instruction? We've got guides to rolling the major muscle groups in our Exercise Database. We've also got other articles packed with techniques to help you get over your DOMS and get back to training more quickly!