“The $20 Massage Therapist”, “The pool-toy-looking-thingy”, “The foam of profanity”.
Whatever you want to call it, the foam roller is an effective, inexpensive and vastly underused gym accessory.
For about $20-30, you can improve mobility, relieve muscle stiffness, improve brain-muscle efficiency and improve performance.
Here’s how it works.
Foam Roller Basics:
The idea here is that you roll your body weight along the foam roller, massaging through restrictions that may occur in the muscle and fascia. The exercise physiology geeks refers to this concept as “Self-Myofascial Release Technique”.
Without getting into complex details about fascia, the myotatic stretch reflex and autogenic inhibition, I’ll summarize by saying that certain structures are prone to trigger points (spots of irritation in the muscle fiber) and breaking down these trigger points through foam roll release can help improve the quality of our soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia etc) and hence the quality of our movement.
Trying it out:
This page on the Sports Fitness Advisor site gives a detailed explanation of trigger points and an excellent basic exercise guide. So if your gym has a foam roller, try it out or even consider buying one if you think you may benefit from using it.
The sensation of rolling will range from a gentle pressure to somebody taking a jackhammer to your muscles. This will vary from one area to another. I keep having to tell my clients (and reminding myself) that the more you feel it, the more you need it. That said, do what you can tolerate and build from there.
Try using the foam after a cardio warm-up (and before your weight training) or at the end of your workout. Either replace or add these exercises to your regular stretches that you do already. Although it may feel slightly uncomfortable, my personal experience is that I feel much better afterward and so do my clients.
Have you used a foam roller? Share your experience.