Have you ever been to the gym and saw a person rolling on something that looked like a giant piece of chalk? Well these people aren't having an intimate moment; this tool really helps relieve knots in your muscles. You know what I'm talking about. That golf ball that moves around in the back of your neck, or the tightness in your hamstrings that feels like at any moment it's going to pop and roll up like a slug.
Stress, repetitive movements, poor exercising, bad posture, and more can cause these knots. Tightness restricts range and joint motion, which changes normal neural feedback to the central nervous system. Consequently, one will have faulty movement patterns, which can lead to injury. What a domino effect!
Imagine tying a shirt in a knot and then throwing it in a washing machine. Water and soap will not effectively get in the crevices of the knot, and if you stretch both ends of the shirt, the knot will get tighter. That's synonymous to lack of blood flow to the area of the knot, and tightening the knot when you stretch the muscles that has it. Fortunately, you can iron out those knots with a foam roller using the proper techniques. I must warn you however; it may feel a bit painful, like you're delivering a small baby. Gradually over time, consistent rolling will cause the knots and pain to dissipate, helping you achieve better range of motion, correct muscle imbalances, decrease muscle soreness, and relieve joint stress.
You can see a video about the exercises that are affected when having these muscle imbalances by clicking here.
The best way to approach this when doing a workout routine is to start with the foam roller, warm up, exercise, cool down, and then foam roll again. Although foam rolling is a form of stretching, it's ideal to stretch at the end of a workout also.
What you would do is roll over that muscle, find the tender spot (which is the knot), and keep the pressure on it for about 30 seconds. Doing this will put the elastic fibers in alignment straighter with the direction of the muscle. The reason why you're finding those tender areas and compressing it, is to reduce the discomfort by about 75% then moving on. You would repeat this to the opposite side if applicable.
Here are some common tight muscles you can target with the foam roller:
Calves are notorious for having knots. After walking, climbing stairs, or wearing heels (if applicable), they can definitely get tight.