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Why You Need to Foam Roll

“Foam rolling is basically a cheap, DIY way of getting a massage – it hurts so good, but also does your body so much good. Foam rolling uses deep compression (think: what you’re paying a massage therapist to do during that deep tissue massage!) to help roll out muscle adhesions, or knots”, says Tiffany Grimm, an expert with EXOS.

In other words, imagine your muscles as ropes, suggests Grimm. “If a rope gets in a knot and you pull both ends, the knot gets tighter – You need to instead undo the knot with your hands to restore the original length and function of the rope.” That’s what the foam roller does to your tight, knotted-up muscles – due to all of those workouts they’ve worked hard to get you through – that static stretching alone cannot.

Why should I care?

All about Foam Rolling

When your muscles are nice and pliable, they’re more likely to recover faster – so you’ll be less sore and can get back in the gym straightaway, thereby quickening your fat-burning, muscle-building results. Better yet, by activating your muscles beforehand you can actually give them a little kick start which will boost your performance during your workout, says Grimm, since you’ll amp mobility and get rid of any movement-inhibiting hot spots.

Take, for example, a basic squat. If your quads are supertight, you won’t be able to squat all the way down to parallel, where you’ll get the max leg-toning benefits. By rolling ’em out pre-workout, you’ll be able to get the full range of motion and maximize the move’s sculpting powers.

While most of the workout world acknowledges foam rolling as this awesome pre- and post-workout prescription, lesser-known is the fact that it’s also a great workout tool in and of itself. Yup, you can get a full-body “workout” with just your body weight and a foam roller – though bear in mind it will be more of a recovery sesh than a heart-pounding sweat-inducing one.

All about Foam Rolling

 

“You can absolutely do a 20-30 minute foam rolling session by itself on a “regeneration” day or when your body needs some TLC,” confirms Grimm.

Just don’t speed things up – this is a case where slower is better. In addition to keeping your movement slow and controlled, be sure to focus on your breathing, slowing down your inhales and exhales and noticing if you’re holding your breath without realizing it.

Instead, if you’re looking to take things up a notch, add vibration to the equation rather than speed. Place your roller on a Power Plate that sends high pulses of soft tissue mobilization through the body, enhancing the effects of foam rolling or, you can also use the vibrating foam rollers, says Grimm.

How do I do it?

All about Foam Rolling

Here’s how to roll out six key areas of your body. Before your next workout, roll out just the muscles you plan to use. (So, your legs and glutes for a lower body routine or your upper back, glutes, and hamstrings if you’re going to deadlift, for example.) Or, for a full body recovery workout, tack more time on to each move (shoot for two-minutes each) and move through them all one after the next. Remember, if it hurts, you’re doing it right!

Bear these tips – from Grimm – in mind as you roll:

  • Just Breathe. Not only does it activate a relaxation response, but it invites more oxygen and energy into the body needed for deep recovery.
  • When you roll over an adhesion or knot, pause, breathe, let the weight of the body rest on the foam roller, and allow the trigger point to dissipate.
  • Remember to relax your jaw and any other places of tension in your body
  • As a progression, flex and extend the muscle you are foam rolling, creating a pulsing massage effect through the adhesion/knot
  • Place as much weight on the foam roller as you can tolerate without compensating tension in another area of the body or impacting your slow-and-steady breathing pattern.

Movements

All about Foam Rolling

  • Upper back – 30 Seconds

How to: Lie face up on the ground with a foam roller under your mid back and your hands supporting your head. Lift your butt off the ground so that your weight is supported by your feet and the foam roller. Roll from the middle of your back to your shoulders.

  • Glute Med – 30 Seconds Each

How to: Lie on your side with the foam roller under your hip and roll over the small lump of muscle between your hip and pelvis. Switch sides after 30 seconds.

  • Glute Max – 30 Seconds Each

How to: Sit on the foam roller and shift your weight to one side. Roll from the top of the back of your thigh to your lower back. Switch sides after 30 seconds.

All about Foam Rolling

  • Hamstrings – 30 Seconds Each

Place the foam roller under the back of one thigh with the other foot flat on ground. Keeping your back flat, lean forward into the stretch holding 1-2 seconds. Relax, rolling over the foam roller and repeat stretch. Switch sides after 30 seconds.

  • Quadriceps – 30 Seconds Each

Lie face down on the ground supporting your weight on your forearms with a foam roll under one thigh and the other leg crossed at the ankles. Roll along the quads from your hip to just above your knee. Spend more time rolling over any sore spots you find on the front, outside, and inside of the thigh. Switch sides after 30 seconds.

  • Calves – 30 Seconds Each

Place the foam roller under one calf with the other leg crossed over it. Roll over the foam roller, moving it up and down the length of the back of your low leg. Switch legs and repeat after 30 seconds.

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