How to use a Foam Roller
Written By: SportsShoes
Massage is a key practice used to prevent muscle soreness and alleviate muscle tension, ultimately resulting in increased muscle relaxation. Muscle tension is usually caused by repetitive moving patterns such as running, but also resistance training and other repetitive sports can cause muscles to tighten.
Sports massage (or myofascial release) can bring about improved performance, helping in injury prevention. However, getting regular therapy can prove costly and impractical, so in recent years self-myofascial release has becoming increasingly popular, with sales of foam rollers as a self-massage tool growing hugely. Think of a foam roller as a sports massage in a bag!
Fascia is a web like tissue that connects structures of the body together; myofascia therefore refers to the fascia surrounding muscle. Not only does loosening off myofascia free the muscle underneath, but it also improves blood flow and lymphatic circulation.
WHAT IS A FOAM ROLLER?
There are a number of different types of foam roller available, but all basically follow the same concept. Some, for example Trigger Point ‘Grid’ foam rollers, are a hollow tube covered in an EVA foam, whereas others may be a solid EVA tube. They also differ in size, depending on the individual’s needs. Some foam rollers are also constructed in different densities, for example, a denser EVA has a firmer feel to it, for people who want a deeper and more thorough massage.
WHY SHOULD I USE A FOAM ROLLER?
Regular exercise can result in muscular microtrauma, which is a small amount of damage in the muscle. Without therapy this can lead to muscular imbalances and dysfunction. It is thought that using a foam roller as a recovery tool can help correct these muscle imbalances as well as having a heap of other benefits, including:
- Alleviating muscle soreness
- Relieve joint stress
- Improving neuromuscular efficiency (which can aid performance)
- Improving range of motion
- Improving muscle function i.e. improving muscle strength
There are a number of studies on the effects of foam rolling. One recent study from the National Strength and Conditioning Association found that foam rolling significantly reduced post exercise muscle soreness and fatigue. Similarly a study from the American College of Sports Medicine found that foam rolling attenuated muscle soreness while increasing muscle activation and range of motion. Foam rolling is also said to improve dynamic movements such as the vertical jump.
What this all means is that foam rolling pre- and post-exercise can have some really beneficial effects; post-exercise soreness and D.O.M.S. (Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness) are reduced, aiding both performance and recovery. This can help in long term injury prevention as it is thought that a reduced range of motion and muscular imbalances, i.e. poor flexibility, can be a catalyst for injury.
HOW DO I USE A FOAM ROLLER?
To use a foam roller you use your own bodyweight to apply the necessary pressure onto the roller, resulting in a deep muscle massage.
Instead of using your hands to press down onto your muscles, you place the roller on the floor and manipulate your position and bodyweight to apply different amounts of pressure to differing muscle groups.
The images below show how exactly to position your body on the roller to work different body parts:
Once in your required position use the curvature of the roller to slide along it, applying pressure to the parts of the muscles that need it most.
There is no set length of time in which to roll for; 30 seconds is a good starting point on each muscle group. Of course, you can roll for longer on muscles that need it more. At first it will hurt, especially on tight or sore muscles. However, you will get used to the sensation and learn just how much pressure to apply in order to maximise results.