The foam roller is a dense cylinder-shaped piece of foam used to give muscles a mini-massage with big fitness benefits. Foam rolling muscles lengthens and stretches the muscle, increasing blood flow.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, recent research shows that regular foam rolling can help decrease muscle soreness and improve range of motion. A reduction in muscle soreness may increase the likelihood that a person will stick with an exercise program. Improvements in range of motion (flexibility) may improve exercise form and overall performance. Research also shows that foam rolling can help prevent injuries.
Foam rolling can be used for myofascial release, which is a deep massage technique that reduces muscle tension by breaking down scar tissue and adhesions that form in the muscle. The tissue and adhesions can be caused by regular exercise, but they also develop due to stress, overuse, or low levels of physical activity. Foam rolling may also help relieve the pain associated with common conditions like IT band syndrome and shin splints.
The foam roller can be used to massage most muscles including the upper back, quadriceps, inner and outer thighs, hamstrings, and calves. It’s important not to jump into foam rolling without some instruction. Massaging a muscle with the foam roller isn’t always comfortable, but it is important that you perform it correctly so that you achieve the mild discomfort that works the muscle and do not risk aggravating injuries.
If you plan to use the roller at a gym, ask a trainer to provide basic instructions and evaluate whether you are performing the moves correctly. If you purchased your foam roller for home use, read the instructions carefully and review exercise examples or DVDs that are included. You can also seek out instructional videos or articles online from accredited fitness organizations like the American Council on Exercise.
Making it a part of your exercise plan
Foam rolling should be an addition to your workouts and not replace other components of your fitness plan. Warm up, cool down, and stretching exercises are all still important. Foam rolling should be incorporated with these activities to stretch and massage the muscles further and to reduce muscle soreness, help improve mobility, and reduce the risk for future injuries.