You may have seen people in the gym, on tv, or in their living room….rolling around on some white, blue or black foam cylinder. This cylinder is called a foam roller and is a very effective tool used in many of todays’ workouts. At Active we use the foam rollers with athletes and clients of all ages and fitness levels. Many of our clients have purchased one and do their exercises and stretches at home. We also recommend that clients foam roller before their workouts.
WHY do we recommend foam rolling? The use of foam rollers is based on the concept of acupressure in which pressure is placed on specific surfaces of the body. The use of foam rollers has progressed from an acupressure approach to self-massage. Who doesn’t want that?
The roller can be used at the beginning of a workout or prior to exercise. It should be used to apply pressure to sensitive areas in muscles-sometimes called trigger points, knots, or areas of increased muscle density. The idea is to allow people to apply pressure to injury-prone areas themselves. The roller is usually used to apply sweeping strokes to the long muscle groups like the calves, adductors, and quadriceps, and small directed force to areas like the TFL, thoracic musculature, hip rotators, and gluteus medius.
The feel of the roller and intensity of the self-massage should be properly geared to the age, comfort, and fitness level of the person using the roller. There is no universal agreement on when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll, but generally, techniques are used both before and after a workout. Benefits of foam rolling prior to a workout are: it can decrease muscle density and promote a better warm-up, prepares and aligns the body for the upcoming workout. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise. Another benefit of the foam roller is that it can be done on a daily basis.
How long to use the roller is also determined on a case-by-case basis. At Active we tend to allow 5-10 min. prior to and after a workout. Foam rolling is hard work that can even border on being painful. Good massage work, and correspondingly good self-massage work, may be uncomfortable, much like stretching. Therefore, it is important that you learn to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort related to working a trigger point or tight muscle and a discomfort that can lead to injury.
General Rule of Thumb: When you are done rolling, you should feel better, not worse. And the rollers should never cause bruising