Why Should I Get a Foam Roller?
If you have spoken to anyone who knows (or thinks that they know) a little bit about physical preparation and rehabilitation, I’m sure many have suggested to buy a foam roller. However, you will still find that many, including myself, will only buy one if they have picked up an injury and require rehabilitation.
What is a Foam Roller?
Think of a pool noodle, but a lot firmer and more densely packed*. The tool is used for stretching out, and applying pressure to a sensitive area of a muscle. These areas of the muscle can be a trigger point, knot, or even areas of increased muscle density.
* The foam roller – although I am sure a few people who are ‘densely packed’ come to mind
The roller can be used several ways of achieving myofascial release (to stretch the muscle). You can also consciously imagine the muscle releasing alongside your stretching, which is also a great way of de-stressing and relaxing. The result will hopefully equal a greater range of movement and a feeling of release.
Many big names in strength and conditioning do (of course) endorse the use of foam rolling as, when used correctly, will prevent against muscle and tendon strains/tears.
How Do You Use the Foam Roller Correctly?
Universally, it is accepted that the foam rolling exercise should be a slow, gradual process rather than a quick movement that does not achieve the desired result. I aim for around 30 seconds per muscle group, daily. Some muscles do need a smaller piece of equipment (tennis. Hockey and those small spikey balls that look like a cartoon hedgehog!!) to be effective.
If you slow the rolling down, especially over a knotted area, you can achieve a release of the muscle tissue. This would be a similar sensation to developmental stretching, where you would stretch the muscle in stages with intermittent breaks of 10 seconds. Many suggest that you should perform developmental stretching (PNF) in conjunction with foam rolling.
When Should You Use a Foam Roller?
To be honest, I have included 25 minutes of foam rolling into my daily schedule, before I leave for work. I feel that it helps me get ready for the day ahead even if I am not exercising intensively later (Amazingly, I do have rest days).
If you are new to foam rolling, it would be best if you start with 5-10 minutes of foam rolling before you exercise. This will help to lengthen and prepare the muscles before exercise and lower the risk of injury. If you can include a bout of foam rolling each day, then this will be a preventative method of staving off muscle strains and tears and will aid your levels of flexibility.
You can foam roll post exercise, as it may aid in recovery of strenuous exercise but the timing of this is not as beneficial as foam rolling before exercise.
What Areas Should You Foam Roll?
There are obviously many areas of the body that will benefit from the attention of a foam roller. The key areas are; Glutes (bottom), Tensor Fascia Latae (top of the leg), Iliotibial Band (outside of the thigh), Posterior (back of the) Shoulder, Pecs (chest), Adductors (groin), Upper and Lower Back.
I have included a video below to show you how to foam roll each of these areas.
So why do you need to start foam rolling today? Well, if you have suffered an injury, then the benefits of using a foam roller are obvious as your physio or health specialist will be guiding you to use a foam roller as part of your rehabilitation.
But why should you if you are healthy?
Performance specialists will tell you that most professional and recreational athletes will only take prevention work seriously when they have suffered an injury of some kind. Try to take preventative steps even if you don’t immediately need to. Injury proof yourself so that you can exercise to the best of your ability and decrease the chance of causing a serious injury.
In life, things can happen that are out of your control. But preparing the best you can to exercise is a key step to remaining healthy and happy (and taking on more exercise classes!!).
Linear PT Paul Walshe
BSc Sport & Exercise Science
Strength & Conditioning Coach