If you’ve been to a gym recently, or read a fitness magazine, you’ve probably at least seen or heard of a foam roller. It seems that everyone is using them and talking about them lately, but what do they really do? Are they worth all the hype they’re getting? The answer is, yes! When used correctly a foam roller can change your whole workout routine, and maybe even your life.
Foam rollers in essence, are used for self-myofascial release. Fascia is what helps to hold muscles together, it acts as an adhesive, and is supposed to be flexible to move with your muscles. Tight fascia which can result from poor movement patterns, prolonged sitting, or overuse, can make pain-free movement impossible. A foam roller works to help the fascia become more pliable. The same way that a rolling pin irons out the lumps in dough.
It also helps to get blood circulating better in your muscles. With better blood flow, your muscles can recover faster, because more nutrients can reach them. A lack of blood flow can actually make you burn calories slower. It looks simple, just a cylindrical tube of foam. But the amount of things you can do with it, and the various benefits of this simple piece of equipment make it a complete game changer, in and out of the gym. A foam roller is something you can use as part of your workout, to stretch, and for a self massage.
For gym goers, when the fascia is tight and constricted it affects flexibility, and working to release it may allow you to move in ways you didn’t think you were flexible for. A study conducted on adolescent athletes found that the use of foam rolling along with static stretching leads to an increase in flexibility. Foam rolling can also increase balance. There are many techniques that you can use to improve balance with a foam roller. For some ideas, look here.
Many have complained that a foam roller can hurt, and generally the first time, it may, this is because your body isn’t used to this new sensation. Often people who use them have been working out for a while, and are just now trying them. Your muscles are tight, and the foam roller is really digging in, to work out those knots, but as time goes on, it will hurt less, and will actually start to feel better.
There are also many types of foam rollers. Beginners may want to start with a smooth foam roller if it’s your first time using one. There are many that come with bumps and ridges. While these may give you a deeper massage, and reach further into the muscles, they will probably hurt more. Taking it slow and working up to that will prevent you from giving up before you give it a real chance to help.
There are so many different muscles that can benefit from foam rolling. If you’re looking for the best ways to incorporate these simple, but amazing, pieces of equipment into your everyday gym life, here are some ideas.