With the trend of things, almost everyone know’s what a foam roller is – but few know what it’s actually used for beyond causing unnatural facial expressions. Here’s a more in-depth look into the do’s and don’ts of foam rolling and how using a foam roller correctly can benefit your athletic performance.
The first step to knowing the benefits of a foam-roller is knowing what it’s actually designed to do.
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage (scientifically known as myofascial trigger-point release) and is designed to release knots in muscles that have developed over time, causing pain and tightness in a specific muscle. These trigger-points start as micro-tears in the muscle that gradually become chronic from continued stress on the muscle. And with stretching only helping the ‘healthy’ tissue in the achy muscle, trigger-point’s only react to direct pressure… Enter the foam roller.
As with stretching or the more expensive option of a sports massage, foam rolling stimulates the central nervous system, sending a signal to the brain that releases tension surrounding the trigger point, reducing pain and increasing range of motion in the muscle within only a few seconds of rolling. There’s been extensive research done on foam rollers, with all of them generating the same outcome; it works! Although foam rolling isn’t going to increase your strength or power, the benefits as listed below will be sure to maximize the efforts that you get out of each session (and the time needed between them).
Benefits of foam rolling:
- Increased blood flow to your muscles – improving the delivery of oxygen and removal of toxins during your workout.
- Helps to relieve muscle tension (especially after a hard day’s training).
- Increase in range of motion by stretching and lengthening the targeted muscles.
- Decrease recovery time between sessions.
When to foam roll:
The benefit of increasing circulation makes foam rolling the ideal warm-up tool to maximize the benefits of your workout. Although it doesn’t stop there – removing excess toxins after a workout by foam rolling for a cool-down has also proven to be beneficial in promoting recovery. Outside of the gym, spending 5 – 10 minutes on the foam roller a day will reduce muscle soreness and prevent overuse injury’s from occurring.
However, there’s a fine line when using foam rolling as a form of rehab from an overuse injury or hard workout. If the pain of rolling over a specific muscle or area becomes too intense, then it’s time to see a professional and get a diagnosis, as the pressure on an already inflamed muscle or joint can do more harm then good.
What to look for in a foam roller:
With the popularity of foam rolling increasing, so are the brands producing foam rollers, making it hard to decipher what is worth the extra buck and what is a waste. When looking to buy, these are the 3 styles of foam rollers to decipher through:
- The foam rolling newbie:
The smooth surface area and generally softer material used in these foam rollers makes for a more gentle massage, ideal for the first timers.
Pictured: SKLZ Trainerroller.
- The athlete’s best friend:
The ridges in these styled foam rollers make for a much deeper massage, and if you can put up with the slightly higher pain levels the results from these rollers prove worthwhile.
Pictured: Powercore Rumble Roller
- The techno junkie:
The one-of-a-kind vibrating foam roller from Hyperice takes foam rolling into an entirely new stratosphere. The benefit of a slightly rigid foam roller paired with 3 levels of vibration results in the most effective form of foam rolling out of them all. You can read more on my review of the Hyperice Vyper here.
Pictured: Hyperice Vyper
Got any other tips or tricks on foam rolling that I missed out on? I’d love to hear! Leave a message in the comments box below.