Foam Rolling: Show Your Muscles Some Love

Fitness Tips

Foam Rolling: Show Your Muscles Some Love

Some people love it, others can’t stand it, and many are downright confused by that mysterious cylindrical thing that often sits in the corner of fitness centers. Behold – the magical, and sometimes torturous, foam roller.

Here at Precor, we are foam rolling enthusiasts. We understand that foam rolling is not only an essential part of your muscles’ recovery after an intense workout, but also that it’s a tool you can use to build strength.

Read on as we delve into the world of foam rolling and answer those burning questions – how it works, why you should use it, how to use it, and the types of foam rollers that exist.

How does a foam roller work?

Ever heard of the phrase “self-myofascial release”? It’s a fancy name for foam rolling that describes what the tool does – you use your own body weight to massage out the tightness and tension of the connective tissues surrounding your muscles.

By applying pressure to isolated muscle groups, the kinks and knots that have built up in your muscles as you exercise have a chance to get stretched out.

Benefits of foam rolling

Use a foam roller after a workout of any kind, or if your muscles are feeling a bit sore. Here’s why it’s such a great tool:

  • Relieves aches and pain
  • Repairs and restores healthy muscle at a faster rate
  • Increases flexibility and strength
  • Helps to prevent injury
  • Is cheaper than paying for a massage!

How to foam roll

Apply pressure to a specific muscle group by placing all of your bodyweight on that area when it’s on the roller. Roll back and forth slowly, one inch at a time. When you roll across an area that is particularly sore or painful, rest there for a while until you start to feel it relax and ease up.

If the pain is too much, try targeting the muscles around that triggered point, in an attempt to loosen it up. Do keep in mind that, while experiencing discomfort is a normal feeling when foam rolling, it’s not supposed to be a source of excruciating pain! Move on to another area of your body instead of doing more harm to that super-pained muscle section.

Not sure what muscle groups you should be targeting with the foam roller? Some of the best areas to roll on include your glutes, hamstrings, IT band, calves, upper back, and lats.

It’s important to note that you should never use the foam roll on joints, your lower back, or your neck. These are areas that are extra sensitive and should be avoided with the foam roller.

Types of foam rollers

If you’re looking to invest in a foam roller for your home gym, living room (think of all the rolling you can accomplish during your favorite TV show), office, or for travelling, you’re in luck. There are so many kinds of foam rollers on the market, each with a varying price tag, so it’s up to you to determine which kind best suits your needs.

The Traditionals:

  • Standard, dark foam rolls are dedicated to those who seek hard pressure for their massage. This kind is especially firm with few pores, so it’s great for those experienced with using a foam roller.
  • White, light foam rolls are perfect for beginners to the foam rolling scene, or those who intend to use the tool as part of their exercise routine. The low density of this roller allows for a greater sense of movement between one’s body and the roller, which generally equates to less pain and pressure.
  • Medium shades of foam rollers usually denote a density that’s in the middle of the previous two. Normally used in Pilates classes, these will help improve your core stabilization and mobility.

Unique Options:

  • The gentle bumps and ridges of gridded foam rollers give your muscle tissue a chance to breathe as you roll them out. Blood and oxygen can flow easier when using one of these bad boys, making your muscles happy.
  • The large bumps that you can find on a RumbleRoller or similar foam roller are designed to target deep within in your tissue. These foam rollers are pretty intense and can be painful if you’re not used to foam rolling – but definitely give one a try if you’re well-experienced with normal foam rolls.
  • If you’re not about to shell out $10 - $50 on a foam roller, opt for using a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. These are also nice for targeting smaller, harder-to-reach areas like the hip flexors.

Next time you’re in the gym, give a foam roller a try (although, warning – they are very addicting). It may turn into one of those hate-it-but-really-love-it tools that you find invaluable to your workouts from here on out.

What’s your favorite way to foam roll? Please share with us in the comments.

Author Information

Katie Dobbs
Katie Dobbs's picture

Katie grew up under the Big Sky of Montana, but she has since moved to the beautiful city of Seattle. She is a self-proclaimed food connoisseur who loves playing in the great outdoors, traveling, and learning new things.

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