You’ve probably walked past it at the gym or equipment store and wondered, “What the heck is this foam log thingy?” You’d be forgiven for not recognizing a foam roller straight away. Many people don’t, after all. However, the foam roller offers some amazing benefits, especially when it comes to muscle therapy.
So, what exactly is a foam roller? And what can it do for you?
If you’ve been asking yourself any of these questions, then you’re at the right place. Here, we will talk about the foam roller, its powerful benefits, and how you can put it to good use.
- 1 What is a Foam Roller & How Does it Work?
- 2 It is important to know which foam roller to choose
- 3 Surface Texture
- 4 Benefits of Foam Roller
- 5 How Often Should You Foam Roll?
- 6 Vibrating Foam Rollers & Why They’re Better
- 7 Final Word
What is a Foam Roller & How Does it Work?
A foam roller is essentially a log-like workout device that’s made out of EVA foam. It comes in different densities, lengths, and surface textures. Its purpose? To administer self-myofascial release, which is a fancy term for self-massage.
Self-massage is an effective method for releasing muscle tightness, especially after strenuous exercise. It is for this reason that foam rollers were previously the reserve of professional athletes and physical therapists. Today, it is recognized as one of the most affordable ways to release trigger points and perform deep-tissue massage.
It is important to know which foam roller to choose
Soft foam rollers are often white in color while hard (high-density) rollers come in black. Medium density rollers are red or blue in color. Why does density matter? Because everyone has to start somewhere. If you’ve never done this before, you’re better off starting with a roller on the softer side. Once you get better, then you can switch to medium, then hard density rollers gradually. High density rollers are overall a good investment because they last longer.
The next consideration is length. Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes. The longest roller available is 36 inches. This is the perfect length because it covers the width of your back. Just under this is the 24-inch roller, which is great for massaging calf and arm muscles. If you’re short on workout space or in need of something you can carry around easily, go for 4-12-inch rollers, which are the shortest available.
Surface texture matters a lot too. Some foam rollers are smooth. I recommend this for newbies and anyone who is just getting into foam rolling (also referred to as rolling it out). Others have knobs and ridges on the surface.
Smooth rollers exert an even pressure across their length. Textured rollers, on the other hand, tend to simulate masseuse’s hands. The knobs and ridges on the surface deliver a more intense targeted pressure that’s more effective at working muscle knots. However, textured rollers are slightly more expensive. Furthermore, beginners should start with the basic smooth surface because the pressure from a textured roller may be too intense.
Benefits of Foam Roller
There are many foam roller benefits that make this an essential piece of equipment for everyday use, whether you’re a fitness fanatic, or just suffer from the occasional muscle aches and pains.
1. Prevents injury and promotes muscle recovery
Self-myofascial release (commonly referred to as SMR) is popular among professional athletes because it has an immediate direct impact on muscles. It builds up muscle physique, which, in turn, promotes muscle recovery and reduces the risk of sustaining injuries.
2. Enhances flexibility and mobility
An unprecedented benefit of having muscles that are in tip-top shape is that they become more flexible, and this improves your mobility. When you take care of the underlying fascia tissue, you release any existing muscle tension. This way, your muscles are able to move better, and your range of motion increases drastically.
3. Disperses muscle adhesions and scar tissue
Tight muscles and fascia are known to be behind more than a few problems. Foam rolling is effective because it applies targeted pressure to muscle knots and trigger points, and this helps release them. It is why foam rolling is so effective for treating problems like IT band syndrome, which is common in runners.
4. Prevents muscle soreness
It is an established fact that stretches before or after a workout help to reduce muscle soreness. Well, the same can be said about foam rolling. The exercise removes lactic acid, which is what causes muscle soreness after strenuous activity. A 15-minute foam rolling session is enough to keep muscle soreness at bay. The roller can be used to both warm up or cool down.
5. Good form of exercise
Foam rolling conditions the muscles by eliminating knots and releasing trigger points. It also gives them a solid workout. If you sit at a desk all day, everyday, you might want to consider foam rolling because it is a quick but highly effective form of exercise. Even better is the fact that you can use it to target specific muscle groups.
6. Cheaper than deep tissue massages
SMR is essentially another term for self-administered deep-tissue massage. Buying a foam roller gives you unlimited access to this type of muscle therapy. In the long run, you will have spent less, but benefited more from SMR, so it is very good value for money.
How Often Should You Foam Roll?
To reap the maximum benefits of foam rolling, you should roll it out at least once every day. The exercise takes 15 to 20 minutes, so it can be done before or after work, after a workout, or even during a midday break.
Vibrating Foam Rollers & Why They’re Better
Regular foam rollers are good at breaking up muscle tension and reducing tension. However, vibrating rollers, which are becoming increasingly popular, are better.
Combining the powerful myofascial properties of a foam roller with the jackhammer-like vibrating effect creates a more effective, targeted muscle therapy. These small vibrations target trouble spots harder, releasing knots faster and bringing a host of benefits along.
Vibrating foam rollers improve circulation too. What’s more, they work faster to release and relax muscles, combat soreness and pain, and improve range of motion. Furthermore, you can tweak the vibration speed of the roller to suit your needs. Faster vibrations are better for breaking up muscle adhesions, while vibrations at lower speeds are better for relaxing muscles.
So, if you’re thinking of getting your first foam roller, consider getting one that vibrates. As you’d probably expect, they’re more expensive than the manual ones. However, they will give you much more freedom over how you want to train your muscles.
Foam rollers are inexpensive and highly effective tools for delivering deep-tissue massages. Professional athletes and physiotherapists swear by its therapeutic properties, and its benefits to the muscle and fascia are instant and long-lasting.
Whether you’re a high-performance athlete who works out frequently or a desk jockey who doesn’t get out enough, a foam roller can be the perfect tool to help condition your muscles. It will keep you flexible, mobile, and stress-free, but best of all, it will only take 15 to 20 minutes of your time every day.