Are you having muscle pains as you exercise? Or maybe you’re contemplating stopping the exercise altogether. Well, as we grow old, our muscles and joints start to lose their connective tissues and elasticity. Consequently, it’s challenging to do the things you were used to doing. If you’re in this stage, don’t worry, a foam roller is your best solution.
So, why are foam rollers good? Well, just like having some deep tissue massage, the roller works to break out the fibrous tissue that is hampering your blood and lymphatic circulation. Using a foam roller before and after your exercise can significantly help to reduce pain and muscle tension.
In this article, we will be looking at foam rollers, their key benefits and of course how to use them. Let’s get started.
What is a Foam Roller?
So, what is a foam roller anyways? A foam roller is an exercise equipment mainly used to soothe tight and sore muscles. Using a foam roller is easy, but it may require taking up awkward positions.
There are many types of foam rollers, but these five basic types stand out from the rest:
- Low-Density Foam Rollers – These are the softest and lightest foam rollers
- Firm Foam Rollers – These are the hardest and most dense foam rollers
- Medium-Density Foam Rollers – These foam rollers are neither too hard nor too soft, and the intensity of density may vary
- Short Foam Rollers – These foam rollers are about half the average length of a foam roller. They may come in soft or firm densities
- Bumpy Foam Rollers – These foam rollers have an added texture to them. They may feature bumps or ridges on the surface
When Should You Perform Foam Rolling Self-Massage?
Self-massage can give pain relief to any part of your body that needs help. And the convenience, simplicity, and versatility of the foam roller are astonishing. You can easily use the technique to massage and stretch any muscle within your body. These include the upper and lower body muscles, as well as the front and back muscles.
Here is a simple procedure to guide you:
- Locate the sore part of your body
- With the roller on the ground, position the sore part against it
- Hold on steady while applying pressure against the roller and begin to rock back and forth, hence producing a rolling motion
However, to get the most effect out of a foam rolling session, you need to choose the right time to perform them. So when is it best to use a foam roller? It’s advisable that you do the self-massage before and after your exercises.
Foam rolling before the exercises helps warm-up and loosen your muscles. Additionally, the risk of having a muscle injury is also reduced. Warming up before the main exercise trains more muscle fibers thus increasing the effectiveness of your moves and routines.
You’ll also need these exercises after your workouts. They will flush out toxins, waste products, and acids that form on your fatigued joints and muscles during the race. These waste products can also clog your circulation system and therefore, prevent the flow of oxygen and other crucial nutrients.
By removing them, your body muscles are able to recover within the shortest time possible.
Different Foam Rolling Techniques
People have come up with different styles/techniques of foam rolling. However, the recommended techniques are those with proven health benefits. They target specific parts of the body. These are:
- Hip flexors – place the roller under your hips and roll up and down from hip to mid-thigh
- IT Band – place the roller on the side of your hip then role up and down from hip to knee
- Hamstrings – place the roller under your hamstrings then roll back and forth from the butt to the knees
- Glutes – place the roller under your glutes and rock back and forth as far as you can go
- Calves – place the roller under your calves and roll back and forth
- Upper back – lie on the roller with your back and roll back and forth from the upper to mid-back
- Lats – place the roller under your lats and rock back and forth
- Chest – lie on the roller with your chest and roll back and forth
The Health/Physical Limitations of Using Foam Rollers
Foam rollers are easy and fun to use, but certain physical limitations may require you to stay off of them for some time. Some of the most common limitations are:
Foam rollers are used for relieving pain in sore muscles. When used on torn muscles, the effect is just the opposite – extreme pain. You should see a physician for your torn muscles.
Intense joint pain
Foam rolling at times demands taking up awkward positions. People suffering from severe joint pains such as back pain may have a hard time with this and should wait until they are healed to take up rolling again.
When Is Best To Use A Foam Roller For Runners?
Runners often suffer from long-term fatigue and sore muscles. Foam rolling helps with this, but the timing has to be perfect.
Experts recommend rolling before running. This helps to flex the muscles, thus increasing your endurance as you prepare to run. However, you should also roll sometime after running if you suffer cramps and extreme soreness as this will give your body a head-start as you look forward to your next run.
Stretching Vs. Foam Rolling
Both foam rolling and stretching have advantages and disadvantages, but these depend on the specific purpose. Let us compare the pre-and post-workout implications for either option.
Foam rolling is recommended before working out overstretching. This is because stretching causes sore muscles to freeze, hence hindering your workout and compromising your performance. Foam rolling, on the other hand, softens sore muscles and also doubles up as a workout procedure.
Foam rolling is also recommended for post-workout as it not only stretches the muscles (which stretching does) but also relieves tension, hence helping your body relax.
As such, foam rolling can be considered better than stretching. However, smart athletes would use a little bit of both.
The Advantages of Using Foam Rollers
Increases your Blood Flow
A decrease in your blood circulation can result in a myriad of health complications. These include a weak immune system, impaired cognitive ability, and numbness in your limbs. The Myofascial releases you get from using a foam roller can help improve your circulation. It’ll break the tight spots where blood flow may be restricted.
What’s a myofascial release?
It involves the use of low-intensity forces on your soft tissues for a longer period. Its purpose is to improve nutrient and blood flow to the area. The smooth motions help prevent or reduce the internal burning on your muscles.
Applying force on your muscles over time helps to squeeze out old blood hence replacing it with a fresh supply of blood. Blood carries crucial nutrients such as glycogen and oxygen to your spent muscles. An increase in your blood flow brings untold benefits to the muscles.
Improves Your Movements
The friction between your muscles and tissues is the main cause of pain during workouts. Doing a foam roller as a warm-up before the exercises are crucial in myofascial release.
With hydrated and loose muscles, friction will be minimized. Therefore, your movements during the exercise will also be smooth. Your muscles and tissues are also less likely to get damaged or pulled in the process.
Better Motion Range
If you want your exercise to be successful, you should target more than one muscle. Well, this means you will need to stretch and lubricate different muscles. Using foam rollers helps you to improve your range of motion by recruiting different muscles for every workout. Engaging more muscles gives you the perfect routine you need in your exercises. Don’t forget, a better range of motion connotes a higher flexibility rate in your muscles and entire body.
Reduces the Risk of Injury
As we have discussed, foam rolling helps to improve the rate of blood circulation within your body. With a better circulation, your range of motion improves. As a result, you gain the flexibility you need to perform different body movements effectively.
Overall, the myofascial release you get from foam rolling improves the coordination of your muscles. The likelihood of missing on your steps or making an improper movement is significantly reduced.
So, what happens if the injury does occur? Don’t worry; the self-massage technique will help reduce the recovery time.
Decreases the Recovery Time
Foam rolling is quite effective in drawing blood to an injured muscle. It’s also effective in reducing the recovery time between exercises.
After working out, your joints and muscles will become sore due to the accumulation of lactic acid and other waste products. Through self-massage, you are able to wash these waste products away by recruiting nutrients and fresh blood to your fatigued muscles.
The faster your exhausted muscles receive blood and crucial nutrients for their recovery, the faster they rebuild.
Improves Your Mood
After a strenuous workout, your body produces cortisol hormones in large quantities. In case you’re wondering what cortisol is, it’s a stress-causing hormone. The foam roller exercises are crucial in reducing these cortisol hormones and triggering the production of dopamine. Foam rolling after a strenuous exercise is an effective way to regain your positive mood.
The main benefit of myofascial release is reducing the chances of injury and reducing the recovery time. In short, keeping you healthy. If an athlete or biker remains healthy throughout their exercising program, then they’ll inherently pose great results.
Features to Consider When Purchasing a Foam Roller
The type of foam roller you choose will determine its efficiency. That is why it helps to know what to look for. Consider the following factors before making your pick:
Foam rollers come at different intensity levels ranging from soft to hard. A high-intensity roller is designed for aggressively sore muscles. Softer rollers are designed for low-intensity workouts. Consequently, the level of your workout and the resulting soreness should determine the intensity of your roller.
Frequency of Use
How often do you use a foam roller? This is important because it will determine the density of the roller you need. If you plan to use it frequently, then you will need a dense roller that can take on the pressure without collapsing. If, on the other hand, you are a light user, then you can go for a softer roller.
Type of Roller
Since there are different types of rollers bearing diverse features, the exact type will depend on your workout needs. Refer to the discussion above on the different types available to choose from.
Most foam rollers are affordable, but emerging models are coming with higher price tags. The price of your desired roller will depend on its exact type and complementary features. However, remember that quality also influences the price.
I hope the above discussion adequately answers the question: why are foam rollers good? For intense runners, combining foam rollers with alternative muscle relaxation techniques works better. Either way, be sure to invest in the right type of foam roller for your needs.