Foam Rolling

This post looks at what foam rolling is, how it can be useful, when to do it and what rollers are on the market. There is also a video of a live foam rolling class for you to have a go at but let’s start with the main points:

  • Foam rolling gets rid of adhesions, also known as ‘trigger points’ in your muscles and connective tissue.
  • Adhesions can create small areas of weakness in the muscle tissue.
  • This can lead to the muscle not contracting properly from end-to-end, potentially resulting in injury.
  • Foam rolling increases blood flow to your muscles and creates better mobility.
  • It also helps with recovery and improving performance via increased range of motion and better-responding muscles.

Foam Rolling Session

Class 251120. Session focusing on:

  • Spine
  • Releasing shoulder blade and shoulder mobility
  • Lats
  • Glutes (minimus)
  • Hip Flexors
  • Calf muscles

What is foam rolling and when should I do it?

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, or self-massage. Using a foam roller, massages out your muscles and tendons, breaking down the tight knots of fascia, loosening up soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue, and encouraging fresh blood flow and circulation to your muscles for faster recovery time.

Here are seven benefits to using a foam roller every day…

1. Stretch Pre-Workout

The first way you can utilise a foam roller is to roll before your workouts.  This “pre-stretch” will warm up and loosen any tight tendons, ligaments, and muscles to prevent an injury. Foam rollers are particularly useful for runners or anyone who is prone to developing a repetitive stress injury from reoccurring strenuous exercise or movement (i.e., even sitting at a desk).

2. Self-Massage Post-Workout

While a foam roller can’t take the place of a professional massage therapist, it’s a tool that can be used after a workout to provide a self-myofascial release, which is somewhat similar to the style of low load, long duration, dragging soft tissue massage that a sport’s therapist might apply. The self-massage of a foam roller will literally “release” muscle tissue and encourage mobility.

3. Prevents Injury

The most obvious benefit of using a foam roller is to prevent injury due to repetitive forms of exercise and inadequate stretching.  For example, running can often cause painful IT band injuries—either flare-ups, muscle tightness, or IT band syndrome—on the thin, fascia-prone band of muscle. However, regular foam rolling in this area will loosen and strengthen to prevent damage.

4. Increased Blood Circulation

Stretching thoroughly with a foam roller, like exercise, will encourage increased blood flow throughout the entire body—creating better muscle and joint mobility and range of motion, better elimination of toxins and waste, faster recovery time following strenuous exercise, and less chance of injury.

5. Encourages Greater Flexibility

One of the best ways to prevent an exercise-related injury is to build up body flexibility. This can be done through a series of stretches using a foam roller as well as through restorative-style yoga postures. As your body gains flexibility, areas prone to injury (i.e., IT band, hips, lower back, and calves) will become longer, leaner, and stronger.

6. Faster Recovery Time

A foam roller promotes two very important aspects for the athlete—better range of motion and increased blood flow to muscles and joints—both lead to faster recovery time following workouts and the ability to perform more quality, strenuous exercises so you can reach your goals more quickly and with greater success.

7. Calms Stress

A foam roller isn’t only meant for pre-and post-exercise. I use my foam roller when I’m feeling stressed from sitting at my desk all day, when I’ve had an awkward sleep, and even after long drives. You wouldn’t believe how the anxiety in your body and mind melts away as you gently drag out knots and release tension in tight connective muscle tissues.

Types of foam roller

Here are 6 types of foam rollers. They have various uses and prices. Lower density tend to be cheaper but don’t provide the same depth of penetration as knobbly and higher density rollers. That said, if you’re new to rolling, a cheap low-density foam roller will be totally fine.

Low density

These are the lightest foam rollers on the market and will be the softest when you sit on them. Choose a low-density foam roller if you’re using it in an exercise class, or if you’ve had an intense workout earlier in the week and your muscles are sore.

Low density

These are the densest foam rollers on the market and will be the hardest when you sit on them. If you’re looking for a more intense, deeper, and concentrated myofascial release, this is your best bet. Rolling on a firm foam roller is a great choice for those who ride, run, swim and train 4 or more days a week at a high intensity and need quick recovery times so that they can train hard repeatedly.

Short and half foam rollers

These come in both firm and soft densities, and they’re about half the length of the average foam roller for instances like focusing on one specific area, your right quadriceps for example. The half rollers are good for acute areas such as your calf muscle and glute minimus. They’re also easier to store than their longer counterparts and will fit in your kit bag or suitcase if you want to roll around on a beach on holiday.

 

 

Bumpy Foam rollers

These rollers have some sort of texture, such as bumpy knobs or wave-like ridges embedded in the foam, are designed to “dig in” to trigger points in the muscles, helping to release those knots. If you’re looking for one of these the Rumble Roller. is probably the best. These are good in the shoulder area, which tends to be a place of tightness due to long periods of computer work. The ‘knobs’ and crevices on textured foam rollers help concentrate intensity into areas that have multiple trigger points.

Medium-density foam rollers

If all is this seems too much and you’re confused as to which roller to use, a medium-density roller will cover the majority of things you need it to do. I have one of these along with a lacrosse ball for when I’m feeling brave enough to ‘attack’ more acute trigger points such as those on the glutes, soles of the feet, calf muscles, and hamstrings.

Vibrating foam roller

When I first saw these I laughed and thought ‘that’s BS’. Then I saw a chap at the gym using one and asked to have a go (before covid when people got close to each other in gyms). I then had to eat my own words and, considering what they were, was unfortunate. What these do is a type of massage knows as gyratory mechanical massage which incorporates vibration with percussion for what manufacturers call a ‘truly effective treatment’. The vibration allows something called the myotic reflex to relax enabling a deeper tissue massage.

There are now loads of these on the market and here is a buyers comparison on best.reviews.com.