6 Ways a Foam Roller Benefits Your Exercise Routine
There are many foam roller benefits. The most important reason being due to myofascial release.
Myofascial release is no secret in the fitness community. In fact, therapists and masseuses use the concepts of myofascial release to treat athletes and have been doing so for decades.
Now, with the advent of foam rollers, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can instantly improve their workouts and decrease their risk of injury.
The best thing about foal rollers s that you can get many of the benefits of a therapist or masseuse from the comfort of your own home with this inexpensive piece of workout equipment.
But if you're not sure if using a foam roller is for you, then here are six ways it can have a positive impact on your exercise routine. Followed by some sample movements you can do to get all of these foam roller benefits.
What is Myofascial Release
First, lets define myofascial release, in case you are unfamiliar with the term. Myofascial release is the application of low-intensity forces to soft tissues over a long period of time. Essentially, the purpose is to allow contracted muscles to relax, which improves blood flow and nutrient flow to the area. The effect is that muscles operate with smoother motion because of reduced internal rubbing.
What are the Foam Roller benefits?
A foam roller is a simple piece of equipment that anyone can use for self-myofascial release. Self-myofascial release, or self-massage, is a great habit for athletes and weight lifters alike. This is because the health benefits increase fitness at a very affordable price. For instance, a one-hour massage costs in excess of $50, while foam rollers are readily available for $30 and less.
Not only are foam rollers inexpensive and readily available, they improve health and reduce injury risk in six ways:
1. Increased Blood Flow
Myofascial release via foam rolling exercises stretches and loosens muscles. By applying force to your muscles and connective tissue over time, blood is squeezed out and replaced by a flood of fresh blood.
Blood carries vital nutrients such as oxygen and glycogen to spent muscles. The greater amount of blood flow leads to various related and beneficial results.
2. Improved Movements
Better hydrated and looser muscles move past one another with less friction. This means that during a workout, movements are smoother and muscles are less likely to be pulled or damaged.
Foam rolling before a workout as part of a dynamic warm-up is especially effective for myofascial release.
3. Better Range of Motion
Another related advantage to self-massage is the improved range of motion of properly stretched and lubricated muscles.
A larger range of motion means that more muscle can be recruited in a given workout, leading to a more effective routine. Better range of motion indicates more flexibility, which leads to the fourth advantage of foam rolling habits.
4. Decreased Injury Risk
As stated before, self-massage increases circulation throughout the body. Better circulation means a better range of motion and more effective body movements.
Overall, myofascial release from foam rolling reduces the chance of injury because coordination of the body is improved. This means that the likelihood of an improper movement leading to injury is reduced significantly.
On the flip side, if an injury does occur, self-massage techniques can be used to decrease recovery time.
5. Decreased Recovery Time
Foam rolling is an effective means to draw blood to an injured area, but also decreases recovery time between workouts. This is especially true of foam rolling after a workout has been completed.
After a workout, muscles and joints become sore because of the build-up of waste products such as lactic acid. When performed post-workout, a self-massage acts to wash the acid away by recruiting fresh blood and nutrients to the fatigued muscle groups.
The faster that exhausted muscles can receive the adequate nutrients for recovery, the faster they can rebuild.
6. Faster Results
All of the positives of myofascial release lead to a decreased recovery time and a lower chance of injury.
If an athlete stays healthy over time while being able to exercise more frequently, then they will inherently produce faster results. Foam rolling is a simple solution to a complex problem with great benefits to practitioners.
When Should I Perform Self-Massage?
Self-massage is best performed before and after a workout. This is because by properly warming up muscles and loosening the body before a workout, the risk of injury is decreased. Pre-workout self-massage also has the indirect effect of increasing the effectiveness of a given workout by training more muscle fibers.
On the other hand, foam rolling post-workout helps to speed recovery. This can be attributed to the flushing of waste products and increased blood flow to fatigued muscles. The new blood supplies the nutrients that the body needs to recover after exertion.
However, if an athlete does not have time for pre and post-workout foam rolling sessions, then pre-workout foam rolling is the priority. No other warm-up technique can prepare a body for a heavy workload and improve performance like myofascial release.
What Types of Movements Should Be Done on a Foam Roller?
The convenience, versatility, and simplicity of a foam roller are astonishing. Almost any muscle group can be massaged and stretched. That includes the upper body and lower body muscles of the front and back.
Foam rolling can yield pain relief to any part of the body, so should be used wherever relief is needed. In general, there are several problem spots common for all athletes that can provide great results.
Foam Rolling the Back
The back is perhaps the easiest area to foam roll and it feels great. Anyone who sits in traffic or works at a computer knows the tension that can build in the back. To release the tension in the back and increase rotational flexibility, start be lying with the roller under your shoulder blades.
Lying with your glutes off the ground and your hands on your chest, roll towards your head, stopping at any sore points. Return to the start position and repeat the movement. Be careful to support your neck and don’t put undue pressure on the spine. Keep the weight of your body supported with your back on the roller.
Foam Rolling the IT Bands
This group of muscles and tendons on the side of the thigh is infamously one of the most painful to foam roll. However, IT band myofascial release is perhaps one of the most beneficial types of release for active people. The IT band runs from the knee to the hip and if inflamed causes many types of lower body discomfort.
To relieve pain in the IT bands, start in a side plank position with the roller just below the hip joint. Use your hands and off foot for support as you roll along the outer thigh down to the knee. When you find a tender spot, pause and let the weight of your body work out the knot.
Then, continuing rolling until there are no longer any tight spots. With consistent use, the act of self-massaging the IT bands will become less painful.
Foam Rolling the Calves
The calves are an oft-forgotten muscle group in training and stretching. Unfortunately, continued neglect can lead to tight calves and less than optimal ankle joint function.
To release the calves position the roller on the calf muscle below the knee. Then, support your upper body on your hands, with your bottom off the floor. Finally, roll over the calves to the ankles and back up to the knee.
To alternate the stretch and release, vary the position of your toes. Point them up, down and to the sides to reach different parts of the muscles. The back, IT bands, and calves are just some of the most effective foam rolling exercises. But as I mentioned, a foam roller can be used on almost any body part for great results.
Foam Roll to Maximize Fitness
Self-myofascial release is a great way to cheaply and easily improve your overall health. A simple $20 foam roller can provide years of pain relief and injury prevention. Consider adding a foam roller to your fitness arsenal. All the muscles of your body will be happy you did and the results of you hard work in the gym will come more quickly and less painfully. To learn how to do more foam roller exercises, check out "The Ultimate Foam Roller Exercise Guide: 25+ Amazing Moves."