The Benefits of Using a Foam Roller
If you’re not currently using a foam roller, you’re missing out on one of the most effective pre and post workout tools. And unlike some of the other great recovery tools a foam roller is a fraction of the price.
How many of you take supplements post workout? Or see a professional, such as a massage therapist or a chiropractor? All of these things can run several hundreds of dollars if not thousands of dollars.
Yet a simple piece of rigid foam can have a dramatic effect for as little as $15. Dollar for dollar there may not be a more useful way to warm up, prevent injury and reduce recovery time than a simple foam roller.
And while a roller may not have the same impact that a single session at a physiotherapist would have (hint: it won’t) it can be used daily without breaking the bank.
Providing daily treatment to the area(s) that are bothering you should be a no brainer.
Foam Roller Benefits
Deep tissue massage or myofascial release (MR) has long been recognized as a legitimate treatment for athletes. And while there are far fewer studies which have demonstrated that SMR is an effective treatment for athletes common sense leads us to believe that if MR is effective, SMR on some level must also be effective.
The main three benefits can be broken down into three groups:
- Injury Prevention & Maintenance
- Muscle Recovery
Anybody that has sought after professional help to recover from a sports injury knows that the MOST important part of the program is the exercises they prescribe to you at home.
If you don’t do the exercises you risk slower recovery times or not ever fully recovering. You don’t need to look very hard to find physiotherapists, which either recommend a foam roller for injury prevention or recommend foam roller exercises as part of their rehabilitation program.
To some extent, a foam roller mimics active release therapy (ART). Active release therapy is a technique, which helps to treat various musculoskeletal disorders. By applying pressure to problematic areas you cause a reaction, which often leads to a response that helps to heal the body.
It is the reason it’s recommend you pause briefly on problematic areas while using a foam roller.
Injury Prevention & Maintenance
I generally incorporate a foam rolling routine pre-workout AND post-workout.
I roll the entire body out pre-workout to get the blood flowing. And then I go straight into my dynamic stretching routine.
I don’t spend very long on the roller prior to lifting or going a run because I’m NOT trying to perform ART I’m just simply encouraging blood to flow to the various areas of my body. I spend about five minutes working from the bottom to the top with a few passes on each body part.
Not only are you encouraging blood flow you’re also gently activating a number of your muscles, particularly your core as you roll out your body.
Post-workout I’ll jump back on the roller and begin to work on some of those problematic areas. If I worked out my legs that day I’ll pay special attention to my lower body. The same goes for my chest, back or any other muscle group that I may have focused on.
Compared to my pre-workout routine I’ll spend a lot more time post-workout. I’ll roll each muscle for 30 seconds to a minute depending on how many trigger points I find. When I find a particularly tender area I’ll pause for 15-20 seconds.
Off days are actually when I spend the most time using a foam roller. I try to address problem areas and I spend 15-20 minutes rolling my entire body out.
The primary goal is to help improve recovery times by increasing blood flow. Blood is vital for muscle because with it, it brings nutrients and oxygen.
What Can I Use For Self Myofascial Release (SMR)?
A roller such as the Grid 2.0 or a high-density foam roller is the most obvious answer. However, here is a list of SMR tools, which can be extremely effective.
- A Lacrosse Ball – Lacrosse balls are $4 and can provide a huge benefit. They’re extremely effective in place of a foam roller when it comes to dealing with hips, feet and even calves.
- A Muscle Stick – The muscle stick is very similar to a foam roller, however because it’s handheld it allows you to target some areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. I love the muscles stick for my quadriceps and hips.
- Theracane – An alternative to using bodyweight to work on the trigger points in your back. The theracane isn’t my favorite product but it is excellent at pin-pointing knots in your back.
- Trigger Point Cold Roller – This is one of my favorite recovery products while training for a long race. Stick the cold roller in the freezer before going for a run. When you get back pull it out and voilà, you have an ice cold foot roller. The cold treatment plus the SMR is hard to beat.
The only downside to this product is it is expensive and really only has one use – rolling out your feet.
- Yoga Balls or Trigger Point Balls – You’re going to pay a lot more money for these balls than a standard lacrosse ball. That said, they have more give to them, which is a good thing as lacrosse balls tend to be extremely rigid.
- Foam Roller – A foam roller is the best self myofascial release tool. It’s incredibly versatile and they’re relatively inexpensive, if you’re going to only purchase one SMR tool make it a foam roller. I always recommend the Grid 2.0 but if you can’t afford it buy a high density foam roller.
Foam rollers have become a integral part of my workout. For anyone who is active I cannot recommend it enough.