The Benefits of Foam Rolling
When you start a brand new fitness program, it’s not uncommon to be hit with a case of delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
If you haven’t been active for a while, are trying a new workout style or beginning of the SWEAT programs, you might be using some muscle groups more intensely or in a different way to what you’re used to. If that’s the case, having sore muscles is a normal reaction for your body.
However, foam rolling is one way to aid muscle recovery. If you want to ease soreness, a foam roller could be your new best friend!
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
Foam rolling is one activity that may alleviate DOMS, but it actually has a wider range of benefits.
It targets the muscles and fascia (the tissue that connects your muscles and helps hold them, and the rest of your body, in place) and may help to free up tension, stiffness or soft tissue restrictions which will have a positive effect on how your body feels.
It might help to think of foam rolling as a way to massage your body — it’s also called self-myofascial release — giving you similar tension and muscular relief.
Below are some of the benefits of foam rolling.
Reduce muscle soreness
Foam rolling may help reduce pain and muscle soreness, and you can try doing a foam rolling session before a workout, as part of a cool down or as an active recovery session.
Massaging the muscles increases blood flow — and thus oxygen — to the tissue which can aid the natural healing process.
Improve flexibility and range of motion
Foam rolling, together with stretching and rehabilitation, can help lengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility.
This means you can stretch your muscles more when required, allowing you to perform exercises more effectively.
A small 2013 study from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, found that foam rolling could lead to a short-term increased range of motion from joints. There have been several other studies that support this idea, but more research is needed to fully understand how foam rolling may improve range of motion.
Help your fascia to function
Foam rolling can help to restore elasticity to the fascia.
When you’re inactive, this tissue can become tight and self-myofascial release may help to stretch it. The foam rolling motion may allow it to become more supple, aid healing and restore its ability to move with more fluidity, helping your fascia to function at its best.
Prevent injury and boost performance
Tight muscles can be more prone to injury, so self-release of muscles and fascia can help loosen everything up.
Some studies have also found foam rolling can aid a short-term improvement in athletic performance.
How do foam rollers work?
Foam rolling works by massaging or releasing muscle and fascial tightness.
The roller applies pressure, helping to manipulate and break up “knots”, stiffness and tension that can form in your muscles and tissue.
To use a foam roller, slowly run the roller down stiff muscles (such as your calves, hamstrings, quads, Iliotibial (IT) bands and middle back), using your body weight to apply as much pressure as feels comfortable.
Slow and steady is key. Start by rolling along the length of the muscle, then you can follow up with small rolls over any spots that are tender.
Take long breaths as you roll, as this helps to increase the flow of blood (and thus oxygen) to your muscles. Many foam rollers have raised sections, which can push a little bit deeper into your muscles as well.
The mixture of smooth and bumpy textures is designed to mimic the actions of a massage therapist, which may help to reduce muscle tension.
Tips for using foam rollers
If you are new to foam rolling, it can be slightly uncomfortable when you start, especially when you roll over muscles that feel tight.
Go lightly if you find an area particularly painful — decrease the pressure slightly, or work on the surrounding tissue instead.
If you find that your muscles are too sensitive, it might be time to take a rest day and allow yourself to recover.
Add foam rolling to your weekly workouts
Whether you’re new to fitness or you’ve been training for a while, foam rolling can be a useful addition to your schedule.
Try adding it to your rehabilitation and recovery sessions, and make it a regular part of your routine.
Foam rollers can also be used to support some postures during yoga or pilates, so they are a fantastic addition to your workout gear too!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.