Deriving from sports therapy, a foam roller is the most effective tool for eliminating sore muscles and body tension.
If you think foam rolling isn't for you, think again. It is highly efficient for athletes and gym-goers of all skill levels and goals.
Foam rollers are the most popular aid in self-myofascial release (SMR). These rollers are becoming a necessity for athletes because of the immediate release of tension from sore, tight muscles.
The roller acts like the hands of a trusted therapist, applying low pressure to your sore muscles for long durations. This helps your muscles and joints relax and heal by increasing blood flow to the area and achieving SMR. It is the best alternative to expensive therapist visits.
The many benefits hard to ignore. If you suffer from tight, sore muscles and are injury-prone during athletic activity, foam rolling and other techniques for SMR should be essential in your exercise routines. It is also a great way to relieve pain and pressure on your back, thighs and calves.
The benefits of SMR
1. Increased range of motion and muscle flexibility
One of the main reasons why sports injuries occur is a lack of flexibility. When your body cannot take advantage of your muscles’ full range of motion, you’re bound to perform an activity or sport with bad form. This makes you more prone to injuries and muscle soreness.
Using a foam roller through targeted pressure extends range of motion in your legs all the way from your ankles to your hip flexors, resulting in a more effortless and correct body movement. Using a foam roller before your workout increases blood flow to an area and prepares your body for exercise. Doing just 5-10 minutes of foam rolling before your workout means you can properly warm-up your muscles therefore minimizing the risk of an injury.
2. Improves athletic performance
It’s simple really. When you cure your tight muscles and increase blood flow to those beaten up muscle groups, you are speeding up your recovery time. The result is your next workout can be much sooner which means a better quality workout performance.
3. Inexpensive alternative to a professional massage
Foam rollers have been used by physiotherapists and professional athletes as an effective muscle recovery technique for years. Now it is no longer a best-kept secret of elite athletes, and more people can enjoy its numerous performance and recovery benefits. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars at doctors and therapists offices, you can relieve your body of pain and soreness for a modest $50 or less.
To see results quickly after using a foam roller, begin with the calves. They most often bear the load of poor posture, bad footing or choice in shoes and limit the rest of your body from performing at its best. Try placing one leg on the foam roller and then the other leg on top of it. Raise your hips and slowly, gently roll forward and then backwards. When you find a more sensitive area, hold it for a few seconds and allow the pressure to build. Do this up to four times before removing the foam roller and lightly stretching.
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4. Avoid activity-based injuries
The many advantages of using a foam roller means you are less prone to activity-based injury. When you effectively release those tight spots, your muscles return to normal function and you’re less likely to get injured during exercise.
What muscles need foam rolling? It depends on what exercise or sport you do. Runners tend to have sore muscles in their calves and hips; those who do CrossFit, climbing, cycling and martial arts can benefit from total body self-myofascial release. This often includes stretches for your quads, calves, hips and upper back.
5. Achieve faster workout recovery
Essentially, foam rolling smooths out your tight muscles or trigger points — those tight knots in your muscles that are sensitive to the touch. Foam rolling helps unravel those knots so you can enjoy proper and full muscle movement.
When you put pressure on trigger points in your upper back, hips and quads you are activating the receptors that connect muscle tissue with tendons. This causes your tight muscles to relax. The pressure also increases blood circulation in the area and thus makes workout recovery much faster.
When should I use a foam roller?
Ideally, foam rolling should occur before and after a workout. Remember we said that SMR helps increase blood circulation in the targeted area. Before doing any vigorous exercise, you want a thorough warm-up of your muscles. Foam rolling is one of the best ways to effectively prepare your muscles for exercise and therefore decreasing the likelihood of pain or injury.
TIP: Do a 5-minute foam rolling before any light, warm-up cardio.
Why foam roll after a workout? When you do SMR after exercising, you are releasing tension and sending concentrated blood away from these soon-to-be trigger points. As a result, your body will recover much faster because:
• Micro-tears are recovered • Muscle swelling subsides • Any scar tissue will be minimized • Nutrients and oxygen, essential for fast recovery, will rush to your targeted muscles to speed up healing.
If you are pressed for time, it is most effective to perform a foam rolling exercise before your workout. Even just five minutes can have a highly positive effect on your exercise routine.