You have probably seen these at some point in your life, either at the gym or in your own home. In fact if you have been to any sort of health club, you have probably noticed few people rolling and writhing around on cylindrical pieces of foam. But how exactly do you use these foam rollers?
Honestly foam rolling is often overlooked, or is something people never get around to doing. And while it is necessary to work hard during your workouts, it’s equally as important to make sure your body gets the recovery it needs. Foam rolling is a great way to help your body recover and get the most out of your workout. So let’s get into all the reasons you should be foam rolling as well as some common foam rolling exercises.
Foam rolling has been a GAME CHANGER for me. I’ve struggled with mid and lower back pain as well as hip issues off and on since I was a teenager, and there is nothing that helps reduce tightness and muscle soreness like a good session of foam rolling. I usually do mine either in the evenings while watching TV, or after a nice soak in the hottub.
I even find sometimes that I’ll be able to breathe easier after I roll my mid back when it is especially tight from training and/or sitting at a desk all day in front of a computer screen.
1. Reduces Soreness and Tightness
Most of us have experienced that feeling after a hard workout where your muscles are sore and it’s a bit hard to move. It’s a rewarding feeling, but an uncomfortable one nonetheless. But foam rolling right after your workout (or even the next day) can help reduce some of that soreness and tightness.
But how exactly does foam rolling help? Well it works by massaging away fascia buildup in your muscles, which often lead to painful, sore muscles. Reducing this means you won’t have to skip your workout because you’re too sore from the previous day’s session.
2. Increases Flexibility
While it is often over looked, staying flexible is pretty important. After all maintaining flexibility throughout your life reduces injuries, improves your athletic performance and keeps you strong and healthy into old age. But how can you increase your flexibility?
Thankfully, foam rolling can help with that as well. Foam rolling can improve your performance and make you a more flexible, healthier athlete in general.
3. Helps Prevent Injuries
When you work out hard, your muscles end up tight and develop knots from constant stress. And unless you want to pony up the cash to get a full body massage once or twice a week, your best bet for staying injury-free is to foam roll as often as possible.
When you foam roll out the tight spots, it prevents those areas from becoming injury trigger points which could eventually lead to shin splints, neck immobility, and even a popped rib. Taking that extra time to foam roll is definitely worth it, especially when it comes to preventing injuries.
In today’s day and age stress is pretty common. All of us have experienced stress, whether that comes from your job, your home, your situation, etc. But how can you help your body manage stress? Foam rolling can help you in this department as well.
Foam rolling away the knots can help you de-stress at the end of a tough day—just like a massage would. That’s because when you release your knots and sore spots, the tension built up in your connective tissue releases and leaves you feeling less stressed.
Foam Rolling Exercises
Now that we know some of the benefits of foam rolling, here’s a couple of examples of the most common problem areas.
- Lean back against the roller, positioning it beneath your shoulder blades.
- Raise your hips slightly and maneuver your body up and down to find sensitive areas.
- Keep the roller between you shoulder-blade region. Avoid the neck and lower back with harder rollers, as there is little support in these areas. It can help to roll the lower back with 2 rollers at the same time to provide more support.
- Take slow, deep breaths.
Outer Thigh/IT Band
- Use caution with this area, as the outer thigh is highly sensitive. Go low and slow, applying more pressure as you go.
- From a side-plank position, place your right elbow on the floor and your left hand and left foot on the floor in front of your body.
- Use your elbow and foot as contact points on the floor to control the amount of pressure you are applying to the muscles.
- Start above the outside of the knee and slowly roll your body over the roller toward your hip.
- Work on any tight, stiff spots that you find along the way
- Cross the leg of the side you want to roll over the knee of the other leg
- Work your way around the glute, looking for hot spots.
- Massage on those areas, or create constant downward pressure to get deep into the muscle and help loosen tightness.
Foam Rolling Takeaway
In short, foam rolling is a great way to help you feel better and increase your athletic performance. It comes with a wide variety of benefits, including reducing soreness and decreasing stress.
Pretty much any area of the body that is giving you issues can be helped by foam rolling, and there are so many different kinds and styles of rollers for virtually any type of soft tissue work, from really hard and aggressive, to really soft and more relaxation based.
Don’t overlook foam rolling, it’s a great recovery tool!
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Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.
CLICK HERE to download his Free Guide to rapid fat loss, “The Calorie Backloading Fat Loss Method”