Foam Roller: What It Is, How To Use It, And Why It Hurts

Your ultimate guide to a foam roller.

Foam Roller

Ever wondered what those cylindrical things people roll on in the gym are? Depending on your perception, people on the roller could look stupid or really cool. There are chances you might have wanted to try it out for yourself but had no idea how to go about it.

If the above situation describes you, you’ve come to the right place. Self-myofascial release, also known as foam rolling, is a form of self-massage used to release muscle tightness, muscle knots and activate trigger points.

Why Do You Need A Foam Roller?

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Before we get into what a foam roller is, let’s understand why we need it in the first place. Training, flexibility, movement patterns, posture, nutrition, hydration, rest, stress, and other lifestyle factors can contribute to a formation of muscle knots.

While your body is always recovering after workouts or anything you throw at it, there comes a point when the rate of recovery is slower than the rate at which you exhaust your muscles. This is a place you don’t want to be.

Self-myofascial release can work wonders when you’re looking to build muscle or getting better flexibility and mobility. Deep massaging with a foam roller can help break up and release tense muscles and muscle knots formed between muscle layers and their surroundings.

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This deep tissue massage helps in the restoration of the healthy muscle tissues as it improves blood flow in your body. This is good news as you perform at your optimal levels when your muscle and tissue health is on point.

What Is A Foam Roller?

Foam rollers come in various shapes and sizes. You can go for a roller with soft, standard or firm density depending on your goals. You can choose a size which suits you and the exercises you’ll be performing on it.

Soft density rollers are more cushioned than standard and medium density rollers and are opted for by people who are looking for comfort. Standard density rollers have a medium firmness and are ideal for both self-massage and exercise.

On the other hand, firmly dense rollers are extremely hard and provide deeper and intense massage as compared to the other two rollers. These are used by athletes or highly active individuals since they often have tight, tense muscles which can benefit from the penetrating nature of these rollers.

Foam rollers are a great way of giving yourself a massage. The reason foam rollers have gained so much traction is, you are the best judge of the spot you need to be worked. With self-massage, you have the best chances of hitting the jackpot. Other than this, this is the most convenient and cheapest form of massage.

How To Know What To Foam Roll

Don’t make the rookie mistake and start foam rolling your entire body as soon as you get your hands on one. Foam rolling a sensitive body part like the neck can do more harm than good. Keep the foam roller away from these muscle groups.

There are two ways of determining which body part to foam roll. First and the more obvious one is to perform a self-myofascial release on the muscle group which needs some extra love and care. These muscles might feel tight or tense after workouts or a long and tiring day.

Second, deep tissue massage muscle groups which will help you perform better. Self-myofascial release can help in increasing the mobility and flexibility of muscle groups. This can help in exercises like squats, deadlifts or any other movement you have trouble performing.

How To Foam Roll

This is the biggest problem people face after they get themselves a foam roller is how to actually do it. It could be pretty intimidating starting work with a foam roller. By foam rolling incorrectly you can end up with a pulled or overly stretched muscle.

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To foam roll correctly, place the foam roller between your muscle and the floor. Apply moderate pressure using your body weight and the roller. Roll your muscles slowly. Don’t go any faster than one inch per second.

When you hit a spot where you feel pain, you’ve found a muscle knot. Pause at this position for several seconds and roll slowly. Focus on this trigger point until the pain reduces. Reduction in pain means the knot is opening up and there is better blood flow in the muscle group.

You might hit on muscles which are too painful to foam roll. For these muscles, start by rolling the surrounding muscles and gradually work to loosen the tightened muscle. The goal of foam rolling is to loosen muscles, don’t think of it as a pain tolerance test.

Cautions

There are certain things you need to take care of while foam rolling. Never foam roll a bone or a joint. Also, stay away from rolling your lower back and neck. These body parts are extra sensitive and need more attention.

If you want to work on these body parts, use a tennis or lacrosse ball. These balls are softer than a foam roller and target these muscles more effectively. Seeking professional help to work on these body parts is recommended.

What To Expect

Foam Roller: What It Is, How To Use It, And Why It Hurts

Foam rolling is no magic, although it’s a close second. With the blood flow improving, you will feel relaxed after a rolling session. Just like with a good workout, you might be sore the next day after a foam rolling session. Wait 24-48 hours before foam rolling the same muscles again.

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