Excuse me, you are doing WHAT with that Foam Tube??
You have seen it right? You are in the stretching at the gym, minding your OWN business, and someone sprawls out next to you and starts rolling their sweaty body up and down this big Styrofoam tube thing. You have NO idea what they are doing and surely you are thinking “what type of new exercise gimmick is THIS?” I mean, how can rolling up and down on a piece of foam be of any benefit, right?
What exactly IS a foam roller?
Well, it isn’t a “gimmick” and it is actually one of the greatest introductions to the world of functional fitness and rehab. A foam roller is basically a piece of foam, or a piece of foam wrapped around a solid tube (harder and more advanced) used to ‘roll’ the body.
To begin, you can use a foam roller to help release tension from those over-active or ‘tight’ areas before a work out. When you use your own body weight and apply pressure along muscles and tendons, you’re increasing blood flow to those areas.
You know that feeling when you go and get a massage where the masseuse finds ‘a spot’ that makes you jump, and they just dig in on that spot until it ‘releases’. Well, the same thing is happening here. When you find one of those areas while “rolling” you want to keep moving back and forth over the area for a good 20-30 seconds. Doing this will often cause the tension to release.
It can get pretty complex scientifically, but I’m going to keep it simple for you. With applied pressure you’re stimulating the muscle spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) to effectively release tension and while increasing the circulation of oxygenated blood to the soft tissues.
More oxygenated blood prepares you to work hard and helps you to perform better much faster, often with much more intensity. Following your work out, a foam roller can definitely help you accomplish a faster recovery by helping to release tension from tight muscles and stimulate blood flow to aid in recovery.
In addition to the muscles, we all have soft connective tissue just below the skin called fascia. Applying pressure with a foam roller helps to break down adhesion’s as well as scar tissue between skin, muscles and bone, while softening and lengthening the fascia.
For example, after an intense leg session, I concentrate the foam roller on pressure points in my IT bands, quads and calves. I won’t lie – it’s an intense practice at first. But with some practice, you quickly figure out the areas where your body benefits most from this form of pressure therapy.
Similar techniques called Muscle Activation (MAT) or Active Release Therapy (ART) are used by athletic trainers everywhere. Professional sports massages have the same goal of recovery, lengthening and release, and involve long, steady pressure applied to the soft tissues while traction is applied to the fascia and specific pressure points.
While I certainly can’t claim that a foam roller should take the place of a sports massage (I love getting mine!), I can highly recommend this as a part of your daily workout routine. I believe that it closely mimics some of the effects of massage, and really helps me recover even faster with less pain and injury.
And since you’re regularly using the foam roller to warm-up and/or recover, you’re addressing smaller injuries as soon as they happen and lessening your chance of injury, which is what everyone wants! A proper warm-up prepares the body to work and keeps you from over-exerting unprepared muscles and joints. A proper stretch and recovery enables you to keep fascia and muscle tissue from becoming stuck together (adhesions), increase total flexibility and range of motion, and reduce pain and soreness. Better flexibility and range of motion leads right back to increased coordination and balance, which in turn improves your workouts. See the full circle?! It’s amazing right?
Which Foam Roll should I get?
I’m sure you have seen many different kids and colors of foam rollers. What I am going to share with you today, is 3 of the most popular foam rolling options. Click on each picture for a more in depth description (will open a window for Perform Better)
This basic roll is perfect for beginners and those that are more sensitive to pressure. This is a great place to start as the foam roller is inexpensive and it is one you can always use for certain muscle groups. It is ALWAYS good to have one of these around, especially if being used by only 1 or 2 people. It isn’t very durable in a commercial gym situation where it is getting used all day long, but it is perfect for at home. I still have my white foam roller and use it when I’m SUPER sore or just want a more comfortable roll.
This black foam roll is made of a denser foam that will last about 3x as long as a basic foam roll. It will help you get into some of those harder to reach muscle groups (the psoas) that need a bit more oomph to get the muscle to release.
Used for self-myofascial release, an intense form of sports massage. Because of its uneven and raised nodules, this premium foam roller works like a deep tissue massage to get even deeper into the muscle tissue than ordinary rollers do.
You can easily get all 3 of these tools for under a hundred bucks…or about the cost of a good massage. I think it is worth it 100%!
Foam Roller Recap
I love discovering simple (and inexpensive!) ways to boost my workouts as well as improve my overall strength and health. Using the foam rollers at your gym and possibly investing in one for your home (watch some boob tube and become more flexible at the same time!) will absolutely produce improvements you never even imagined, as well as help prevent injuries you’d much rather avoid. So get rolling!
PS- You can get foam rollers at most sporting goods stores! You can also find them quite inexpensive by clicking the pictures above to shop at TEAM BEACHBODY, my online store for training equipment and programs. I’m sure you could also find plenty of options on Amazon.com