From runners, football players, dancers, or any kind of athlete to nurses and people who spend all day on their feet, everyone can benefit from using a foam roller.
In fact, these versatile massaging and stretching tools are so effective that they have become part of mainstream recovery techniques. Most people have seen at least one in real life - at the gym, in a doctor’s office, and beyond. However, while they are widely known, few people know exactly why they are so beneficial or even how to use them.
That said, today, we will tell you exactly what they are, describe their benefits, and walk you through the best ways to use them. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
What They Are
As mentioned above, in a nutshell, foam rollers are versatile massaging and stretching tools.
But, to fully understand what they are, we have to take a deeper dive.
Available in a variety of densities and sizes, there are two things that remain that make foam rollers, foam rollers. First, they come in a cylinder shape. This shape allows the user to roll parts of their body across it without any assistance. Second, they are made of foam or other soft yet solid material. This gives the user a nice sensation of working a muscle without damaging it. Imagine rolling against a metal or wood cylinder. Sounds painful.
And, there we have the basics of foam rollers--tools used to gently yet aggressively perform self relief of stiff or sore muscles.
To understand the benefits, we must first get a little scientific. So, here it goes.
Within the human body, every muscle is connected by something called fascia. Fascia is what surrounds tissue, organs, and nerves. A vital part of every human, unfortunately, fascia can become stiff, tight, achy, and sore from overuse or day-to-day activity.
Fortunately, that is where foam rolling can provide significant relief in the form of self-myofascial release.
The rolling movement over major muscles:
- Alleviates stiffness
- Reduces soreness
- Helps combat inflammation
- Improves muscle recovery
- Maintains muscle length
- Enhances blood flow
- Encourages relaxation
- Increases flexibility
The Best Moves
Before we tell you the best moves, let's look at the areas to avoid using a foam roller. These include the abdomen, low back, chest (for women), and neck. Now, let us tell you where to use a foam roller and how.
To roll your quads, simply lay down in a forearm plank position with the foam cylinder under your upper legs. Bracing your body with your arms, gently lift your pelvis up, and slowly lean forward. This movement will pull the roller towards your knees. When the cylinder gets to your knees, start to lean backward forcing the roller towards your hips. Repeat this for about 30 seconds.
Again, start this movement by laying down with your forearms on the ground. However, this time, you want to make sure the foam roller is under your hips. Then, bend one knee and start gently rocking back and front. Switch sides after 30 seconds.
In a seated position on the ground, with your legs out in front of you, place the cylinder under your calves. Then place your hands behind you. When ready, lift up your bottom and start rocking forward and backward. The Foam Roller should move up and down the length of your calves for about 30 seconds.
For your hamstrings, you should also foam roll in a seated position with your arms behind you. This time, place the foam roller under your hamstrings. When ready, bend one leg and place the foot on the ground. With the other leg straight out, lift your seat and use your arms and foot to rock forward and back. Switch sides and repeat both for 30 seconds.
Possibly one of the hardest foam rolling exercises to perform, to work the IT band you must start in a side elbow plank. When ready, place the cylinder under your side IT band and lift both of your feet off of the ground. Leaning on your elbow, move forward and back. Do this for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The only exercise on this list where you start laying down facing up, when you are ready, place the Foam Roller under your shoulders. Then cross your arms on your chest and plant your feet just below your behind and lift your hips. In this backward table position, start moving forward and back so that the cylinder rolls just your upper back. Again, do this for about 30 seconds.
Happy Body, Happy You
On top of foam rolling to keep your muscles happy and healthy, we suggest wearing compression socks as well. Together, these two things can drastically reduce inflammation in your legs and feet, which will lead to a very happy you!