Foam rollers tend to be used in general fitness, Pilates, physiotherapy and myofascial massage. You may also see them referred to as core rollers or ab crunch rollers. Essentially they are a long cylindrical shaped foam piece available as a half round or full round.
They may not necessarily be the most exciting piece of gym equipment that you buy but they can be a great way to warm out, stretch the body, improve posture and prevent us getting injuries. So what’s not to like? Oh, and they are also relatively cheap!
How Can Foam Rollers Help?
Well they could save you from having to pay for a sports massage. Not only do they stretch muscles and tendons but they break down what is known as soft tissue adhesion which can occur after a long bike ride or a long walk or run. This sticking together of the soft tissue that connects muscles, blood vessels and nerves restricts flexibility and can cause soreness in what is known as the myofascia system. Foam rollers achieve the same effect as a sports massage. They allow for pressure to be applied to the soft tissue, breaking down the adhesions and improving flexibility.
They can target any muscle group and are relatively inexpensive. They are certainly a lot cheaper than a sports massage.
You will also be able to target joint pain and general muscle soreness that you get from, for example, desk work. Manual workers could also really benefit, especially if the work they do involves heavy lifting.
Core conditioning can also be achieved from the foam roller. Using your own bodyweight to put pressure on muscles will require you to hold positions for short periods at a time, which will also work your core muscles.
How to Use a Foam Roller
Simply place the targeted muscles on the foam roller and using your body weight to apply pressure roll the muscle up and down the roller to stimulate blood flow. Foam rolling may initially hurt but that is normal. Do pay particular attention to areas that are tight and sore and roll over these areas more slowly.
The simple technique is to keep gently rolling over an area until any pain subsides. The most common trouble areas that the foam roller can help with include hamstrings and shoulder and chest areas (often negatively affected by sitting slumped over a desk all day).
What to Look for When Buying
Ensure that you buy a quality, high density foam roller that will keep its shape. Also ensure that it has a non slip surface. Do check that the length and circumference is right for your shape and fitness levels.
Do be careful when using the foam roller. If you experience continued pain or discomfort then seek out medical advice.