By Alev Basarin, Personal Trainer
Before I became interested in health and fitness I would look at people using the foam rollers in the gym and would think ‘what a fun way to stretch, it looks so relaxing, like a light massage. That was until my trainer at the time introduced me to what the foam roller is really for, painful torture that can make even the toughest man cry. Hands up who wants to have a go next? All jokes aside the foam roller is an incredibly useful tool which can be used to reduce risk of injury, limit tiredness and soreness, strengthen your core and improve range of motion.
Foam rollers are now widely used by the general public and implemented as a part of good programs designed by physiotherapists and qualified personal trainers for their clients. I recommend getting some advice on how to use them effectively as you want to get the most out of your foam roller.
Here is 4 benefits for using a foam roller regularly;
Reduce risk of injury. Self-Myofascial Release is the term used to describe releasing tightness and ‘knots’ through applying pressure to the muscles. Daily movement and exercise cause us to build up tension in our muscles and our fascia (layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds muscle). This tension and tightness (knots) can cause a lack of flexibility and create painful movement which can lead to injury. We can use the foam roller to slowly release this tightness and over time return the body to normal function with less restriction.
Limit tightness, fatigue and soreness in the muscles. A foam roller is not a replacement for stretching or warming-up but it is very effective in limiting the amount of tightness and soreness in the body. We are able to target many areas of the body for example you quads, hamstrings, lats, iliotibial band, thoracic spine etc. When it is incorporated into your weekly exercise routine it allows you to release the tension in your muscles before you workout and then roll away some of the any soreness the day after. Your fatigued muscles will feel slightly rejuvenated.
Strengthen your core. The foam roller can be used daily. You will generally need to hold and move through some positions that are similar to prone planks and side planks during rolling your quads, hip flexors, ITB (iliotibial band). This in turn will cause you to stabilize your body and use your core muscles. If you are rolling daily you will get the added bonus of also working your core muscles, which will assist in strengthening them over time.
Improve range of motion. Using stretching alone will not always release muscle tightness, foam rolling is also used to reduce muscle immobility. When you use the foam roller you will be able to find where you are experiencing a ‘knot’ or tight area as this will refer pain. A large number of my clients have experienced tightness through their hamstrings and some through their quadriceps. Using the foam roller each week has shown improvements in their flexibility to be able to reach their toes and perform during compound movement such as deadlifts and squats.
If you want to incorporate a tool into your workouts that will only benefit you then a foam roller is the right choice. Yes you will be in pain when you locate tight sections and knots but the flip side is people will look as you in the gym and assume you know what you are doing. Instant athlete status!