Have you ever wondered what those long, log-like foam-covered cylindrical things are that you see in gyms and sporting goods stores? Foam rollers have become popular in recent years for their ability to help prepare your body for a workout and ease the pain of sore muscles after a tough gym session. As an added benefit, foam rollers can do both of these without breaking the bank. If you’ve ever wondered what they are, how to use them properly and how you can benefit from them, then read on.
What are foam rollers?
Used by professional and novice athletes alike, foam rollers are long, cylindrical objects that can produce an effect similar to receiving a massage. By rolling affected muscle areas directly over the roller, users can improve circulation, increase blood flow, release muscle tightness, break down knots in muscles and reduce pain. When selecting a foam roller, you’ll probably find lots of different sizes and colors to choose from. You might notice different levels of firmness as well. In the beginning stages of using this device, fitness experts suggest starting with a softer version and applying light pressure before moving towards deeper tissue work.
How do foam rollers benefit you?
Foam rollers are beneficial in a number of ways. Using one prior to a strenuous workout provides many of the same benefits as a warm up by stretching out tendons, ligaments and muscles so they have less of a chance of being injured. Foam rollers can also provide an exercise component on their own: Because it is not a stationary piece of equipment, the unstable nature can help engage core muscles and build strength. Using one after a workout is beneficial in ways similar to a visit to a sports therapist.
Much like a massage, foam rollers can help break down fibrous tissue, resulting in a release of tension within the superficial fascia, the connective tissue directly below the skin. For a variety of reasons, such as lack of stretching, overworking your muscles or not using them enough, adhesion between the muscles and the superficial fascia can occur. Whenever you feel soreness or reduced flexibility in your muscles, this is likely what is happening.
Foam rollers work to soften and lengthen muscles, resulting in a release of the adhesion. They can also help to push out lactic acid, the buildup that causes cramps in muscle tissue after an intense workout. Professional trainers recommend using foam rollers daily if you are working out regularly. Beginners will need to build up their tolerance and should start with approximately 20-30 seconds on each muscle area.
How do you use foam rollers properly?
Foam rollers can be implemented in diverse ways, but it is important to keep a few basics in mind before undertaking regular use. Some helpful tips include:
Drink water. Because you’ll be releasing toxins from your muscle tissues, it is important to drink lots of water beforehand to help flush them out.
Go slow and steady. Especially in the beginning, try to focus simply on feeling the pressure on your muscles and concentrate on applying a steady amount of pressure throughout the entire movement.
Make it a habit. In addition to the benefits listed above, foam rolling is an excellent way of maintaining circulation and muscle strength. Most professionals suggest allowing 24 hours between each session of rolling to allow the broken down muscles time to repair.
Some of the best areas to roll include the glutes, calves, IT bands and hip rotators. A general rule is to complete 10 slow, steady and evenly pressured rolling motions for each muscle group. While it will most likely be painful in the moment, ultimately it will help loosen the knots, resulting in faster healing times.
In addition to the muscle areas mentioned above, there are lots of other precise motions that can help target specific areas. For best results, a fitness professional can show you how to properly use a foam roller on affected muscles. If this is not an option, try searching for reputable instructional videos on YouTube.