What is a foam roller and why are they so popular?

Foam rollers help break up “myofascial adhesions” which are knots of inflexible muscle. These areas caused by muscle imbalance and overuse injuries. The adhesions can impede blood and oxygen flow, and reduce a muscle’s range of motion which increases stress on the muscles, tendons and joints. They are so popular because they help with muscle performance and recovery.

When should I use a roller?

A foam roller can be helpful to use at any point of a workout. Before a workout it helps loosen muscles to increase range of motion. During a workout it can assist with strength, balance, stretch. After a workout it can increase blood and nutrient flow, reducing muscle soreness and shortening recovery time.

How should I choose a roller?

It’s best to start with a soft roller and work towards denser (harder) rollers as your technique improves and your muscles adapt. Some rollers have ridges and knobs that allow you to apply different intensities of pressure and to do a more targeted massage. Long rollers work well for your back because they can run the entire length of your spine. Short rollers work well to target smaller areas like arms and legs. There are a variety of shapes of rollers to choose from. The most common seen are the foam covered roller massager sticks - these are good on legs for more precise pressure regulation and muscle targeting. A half round is good to use for leg and foot stretches, and to massage the arches of the feet to relieve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Foam balls allow for precise targeting and pressure control, and work well in curved areas of the body, like the lumbar area.

How do I use it?

Start out gentle and gradually increase intensity to avoid injury.

  • Pinpoint the tight or painful area of your muscle.
  • Center and lower your body onto the roller until you reach a point of discomfort and hold it there.
  • For pre-workout rolling, hold for 30 seconds. For a post-workout session, hold for 1 minute.
  • You can roll back and forth on these areas if it feels good.
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