Foam rolling isn’t exactly a new technique but as the gym becomes ever more popular, we’ve seen a rise in the use of foam rollers, but what exactly is a foam roller and how does it benefit you? We explore…
What is Foam Rolling?
To look at, they’re a harmful device; a simple cylinder made of foam that is either smooth or covered in ridges – they’re also available in a range of sizes, too – but foam rollers are actually a lot more painful than you’d first think.
These exercise devices are used for self-massage and to alleviate tight and sore muscles. You simply lie on or push against the roller and apply pressure as you ‘roll’ along it. This process will speed up muscle recovery and aid myofascial release (also known as muscle tension).
What are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
When you’ve overworked your muscles in the gym, of there’s a build-up of lactic acid from endurance training, the body is unable to excrete the waste that builds in the muscles and tissue. When this happens, you’ll likely experience some sore muscles, or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
These areas can lead to a reduction in performance, including a shortening of the muscle and reduced flexibility but foam rolling can help with this. In fact, there’s a variety of benefits to foam rolling:
- You can pinpoint the foam roller to your pain
- Foam rolling stimulates blood flow to the area
- Loosens off tight muscles for faster recovery
- Improved circulation
- Increased muscle flexibility
- Prevent injury
Should I Foam Roll?
Yes and no. We’d recommend discussing with your physical therapist before undertaking a foam rolling regime to ensure that it’s right for you.
If you’re good to go then foam rolling is certainly a good skill to have in your recovery-arsenal. Stretching alone cannot guarantee a release in muscle tightness and foam rolling can get to those sweet spots and release the pain trapped in certain trigger points. Stretching can elongate the muscle, aid recovery and improve flexibility but it doesn’t help to break up muscle knots – foam rolling can, however.
If you’ve never done foam rolling before, it can be tricky to get in to. You’re likely to fall off the foam roller, be uncomfortable, find yourself in a variety of positions and lacking in technique at the beginning. And let’s not forget the most important part of foam rolling: it hurts and it is uncomfortable. Though when you find your rhythm, you’ll be all good. Just remember to roll slowly and breath through the pain points.
How to Know if You’re Foam Rolling Correctly
It can be easy to grab a tube and roll every muscle along it but, as with everything, there’s a right and a wrong way to foam roll.
As mentioned, foam rolling can be uncomfortable and in usual circumstances if something feels wrong and painful, you’d stop, but that’s not the case with foam rolling as it can be the good kind of pain when you’re rolling over a muscle knot, and this can make it a grey area when knowing if you’re rolling right or causing injury.
A good rule of thumb for foam rolling is this:
- Avoid foam rolling your lower back
- Refrain from rolling your iliotibial band (IT band)
- Roll slowly
- Breath into the tightest area of your muscle
Always remember, foam rolling can increase recovery in the muscles and help with a range of movements, but it’s not going to fix any long-term or underlying issues that you may have. For that, you’re better off booking in with a professional to talk through your concerns and find a suitable recovery plan for you.
For sports therapy you can rely on, contact our expert team today.