Walk in to any gym and you are likely to hear some exercise buff bragging about using a foam roller. I mean what even is it anyway? Is it even good for you? Is it something you should be doing? There has been a huge rise in the number of people using foam rollers and praising their recovery benefits. But does it really make a difference? So, time to recover the foam roller that you bought back in 2000, wipe away the cobwebs and put it to good use!
Time for the science bit – foam rolling can improve range of motion, decrease post-exercise soreness and decrease neuromuscular exhaustion. In fact, according to The Journal of Athletic Training, foam rolling after a workout significantly decreases soreness up to 72 hours later. However there are a lot of benefits to foam rolling pre workout too as it can improve your mobility without any negative impacts on your performance throughout the session. Foam rollers can also be used on recovery days as a form of self massage to soothe achey sore muscles after that football game or, dare I say it, that night out where you made too many crazy shapes.
So what actually is foam rolling? Simply, it is a form of self massage for your muscles and fascia (connective tissues). Sound appealing? Read on.
You can foam roll pretty much anywhere on your body including the major muscle groups – such as your upper back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. I would avoid more sensitive areas such as your stomach or middle back. Here are a couple of my favourite foam rolling exercises to get you started:
1) Upper back and shoulders – This helps to loosen up the fascia, allowing you to have an upper back and shoulder release. It is Important to keep your hips on the floor and think about extending over the roller as opposed to rolling. This is great if you sit at a desk all day and it will encourage you to naturally stand with your shoulders back and not to slouch.
2) Piriformis and Glutes – Your glutes are the largest muscle group in your body. Foam rolling this area can improve range of motion in the hips. If used pre-workout it will encourage blood flow and help to activate these muscles before you exercise. Great if you were thinking of tackling that 5K this weekend!
3) Calves – Having tight calves can lead to limited ankle mobility which is not great if you are trying to move correctly or play a lot of sports which involve running. Foam rolling can help to alleviate muscles in the lower leg, lowering your risk of injury.
Yeah I know, you’ve heard all this before, but just give it a go and then try to tell me that it didn’t work! P.S Check out our video below to see how these techniques look in action: