You may have seen people in the gym foam rolling their legs or upper body and wondered what it is and what it is for. Using foam roller is a form of self-massage that helps to release tight knots in muscles tissues.

No matter how much you stretch, the build-up of fascia that creates muscle knots won’t go away, and can lead to problems. Massaging out tight knots in muscles is an important part of a workout routine that will improve your training and overall health.

Benefits

The main benefits of foam rolling are:

  • Improved blood circulation throughout your skin, fascia, muscles, and even tendons and ligaments.
  • More efficient exchange of nutrients and waste products at a cellular level, leading to better overall cellular function and inter-cellular communication.
  • Lengthening of short/tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments keeping you flexible which is key for any fitness routine.
  • Promotion of optimal range of motion.
  • Relaxation.

What is a Foam Roller

A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam which is very versatile. Foam rolling is a self-massage technique with an acupressure concept that mimics a deep massage. Using own body weight and agility provides the pressure needed to sensitive areas in the muscles known as trigger points. Trigger points are muscle knots or simply areas of increased muscle density. Using a foam roller allows you to roll out pain, stiffness and even adhesions. The amount of pressure applied to the tissues is under your control allowing you to locate and focus on areas that are problematic.

Why do you need to foam roll

Regular exercise can cause increasingly tight muscles.  If not properly addressed this can result in exercise induced injuries. Regular foam rolling routine may help prevent exercise injury by massaging away fascia build up in muscles. This relieves tension and pain and, over time, breaks down scar tissue. The overall effect is reduction in the likelihood of injury that in turn allows you to maintain your training schedule.

There is no universal agreement over when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll for so only general guidelines can be provided.  Foam rolling can provide great benefit both before and after a workout. Foam rolling can also be used in injury rehabilitation programs. It is great prior to a strength workout and before a static stretch session as it decreases tissue density and releases tension in your myofascia.  You will also benefit from foam rolling during a warm up prior a sports match. As part of a cool down session foam rolling after a workout promotes relaxation and may help speed up the recovery process; next time you work out you will feel fresh and ready to go.

Foam rolling can be used for various purposes e.g. stretching areas that are difficult to reach, massage, muscle balancing, as an excellent way to increase range of motion, prevent injury and promote relaxation.

Other uses of Foam Rolling

Beyond using a foam roller as a therapeutic tool, you can also use it for a variety of exercises. It is especially useful for core-strengthening and stabilizing postures and movements.  If done consistently foam rolling will help you perform better for longer periods of time and improve how you move and feel.  The more regularly you use a foam roll on your tight muscles, the less painful it will be and you can use it just about anywhere.  So are you ready to roll?

Here are some roller exercises for you to try

1.Outer thigh – Lay on your side on top of the foam roller a few inches under your hip. Support yourself on your elbow, and roll back and forth from the hip to the knee.

2.Back of the Legs – Sit on the foam roller with arms stretched behind you, hands flat on the floor. Place the roller under glutes, hamstrings or calves. Roll that portion of the body only, not the entire back of the leg for a few minutes before you move down to the next body part.

3.Quadriceps – Lay on the roller with hands or elbows on the floor, much like a plank or pushup. Roll back and forward from him to knee on the front of the leg at first, then further out and in to get the entire quadricep.

4.Back – Lay on your back with the roller under your upper back. Bend knees and place feet flat on the floor. Raise hips into a bridge and place hands behind head. Roll over the upper part of your back to work out pain in this always tense area. Roll slightly to the side outstretching arm overhead to target the lats as well.

If you don’t have a foam roller and are looking to invest in one that offers a blend of comfort, durability, and ideal density to provide therapeutic rolling of your muscles and ligaments, check out Runners Need on Great Portland Street, London, where you can claim a 15% discount on Trigger Point foam rollers by simply quoting ‘Epoch Fitness’ at the till.

Written by Gemma Stephens