How to Use a Foam Roller

10 November 2015

Foam Rollers have seen a significant rise in popularity in recent years, and are no longer solely the domain of professional athletes and therapists. They can give relief from stiffness, aches and pains, and get you back to optimum fitness. Yet they are still not fully understood, and many people are unsure of how to use a foam roller best to recover properly from exercise, warm up or cool down.

How do Foam Rollers Work?

Foam rolling is essentially self-massage, that you can carry out yourself in place of a massage therapist's hands. The principle remains the same - by applying pressure to specific points on your body you can aid in their recovery and help your muscles return to their normal, elastic function. Repetitive movements such as running, cycling, weightlifting and more can cause the muscles to become stiff, and results in 'knots' forming. Knots are the point within a muscle where the contracted fibres can't release properly, leading to pain and tenderness. By applying pressure to these knots with a foam roller the area relaxes, knots are relieved and you'll soon feel back to your best.

How to Use a Foam Roller for Rehab

One of the best uses of a foam roller is to rehabilitate injured, stiff or sore muscles. You should be able to tell which muscles are tight, and focus on them more than others. To start with you should apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle, or group of muscles, using your bodyweight on top of the roller. Rolling slowly, no more than around an inch a second, find areas that are more sensitive and painful, then relax and hold for several seconds. You should feel the muscle start to release, and slowly the pain and discomfort should lessen. 

If the area you're trying to target is too painful, focus on the surrounding area first before working up to the main site, take it slow and be aware that it is normal to feel a little soreness the next day. In fact beginners may find foam rolling to be uncomfortable or even painful as their muscles adapt to being engaged in this new way, but long term benefits will soon outweigh any discomfort of the adjustment period including a great reduction in pain and stiffness, and an increased performance in athletic activity.

How to Use a Foam Roller for a Warm Up

Foam rolling isn't just useful for rehabilitation - it is also a great tool for preparing your body for exercise. Rolling improves blood circulation, which provides the muscles with oxygen and improves function. It also helps to break down knots in the muscles, and since knots limit the range of motion, getting rid of them means your body is more flexible and therefore perfectly prepared for stretching. 

How to Use a Foam Roller for a Cool Down

Using a foam roller after a workout is also a great idea, thanks again to the increased blood circulation that it causes. This flushes out toxins that have built up, and floods the muscles with oxygen, enabling them to recover properly and allowing you to workout more frequently with fewer side effects.

Best Foam Roller Movements

Upper Back - Lie down with your back on the floor. Place a foam roller underneath your upper back, cross your arms in front of you and pull your shoulder blades back. Raise your hips off of the ground, placing your weight onto the roller. Shift your body to one side, rolling the upper to mid back. Switch sides. 

Calf - Sit on the floor. Place the foam roller underneath one leg with the other leg on the floor. Push yourself off the floor with your hands, and put your weight over the calf muscle. Roll along the muscle from above the ankle to below the knee.

Quadriceps - Lie face down on the floor, supported by your hands/forearms. Place the foam roller under one leg, keeping the foot off the ground. Shift your weight onto that leg, and roll from above the knee to below the hip. Switch sides and repeat.

Hamstrings - Sit on the ground, and place the roller under your thighs, supporting your weight with your hands. Roll from below the hip to the back of the knee. For increased pressure, roll one leg at a time.

These are just a few examples of how to use a foam roller. Think Sport is proud to stock a wide range of rollers and other related self massage products. Click here to view the whole range.