Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

The Benefits of a Foam Roller

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Training your body to maintain its mobility and flexibility will greatly improve your quality of life with age. Mobility training can help improve your overall health, not only specifically to fitness, but also with range of motion and longevity of life.

Some effective mobility exercises include mobility tools, and others are specific forms of training such as active isolated stretching and whole body vibration training. In our current era of sedentary lifestyles, it is important to understand the benefits of mobility, and how to make small changes in your life to improve your health.

Foam Roller

One great mobility tool is an inexpensive foam roller. While it is difficult to stretch every muscle in the body, using a foam roller can help relax the smaller muscles and reduce muscle cramps. Foam rollers are not only for leg cramps, but for any area of the body that may be tight or sore. The rolling will result in an increase of blood and lymphatic flow to the tissues in the body that are injured.

Benefits of Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are inexpensive tools that can help release tight muscles, increase blood flow, release tight tendons and ligaments, and relax the fascia and muscles, which will improve the quality of tissue and the function of cells.

Foam rollers also engage core muscles. By increasing the strength of the core of the body, the range of motion is expanded in the spine and posture is improved.
This is not only beneficial for general fitness, but also for relieving common pains. Improving the blood flow surrounding a problematic area with deep pressure can relieve joint dysfunction.

When to Use a Foam Roller

Foam rolling can be done on a daily basis to prevent injury or pain. It is also an effective pre-workout warm-up when it is focused on areas that are prone to injury. After a workout, using a foam roller can help all of the muscle groups remove lactic acid and heal quickly.

Where to Use a Foam Roller

The iliotibial band is a very common area to use a foam roller. Other popular target places include the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, however almost any muscle on the body can be rolled. Research actually shows that foam rolling the hamstrings can significantly increase their range of motion in under 10 seconds. If a larger floor foam roller is too big to target a certain muscle, a hand-held roller can be used.

Usage Tips

While many wait until a muscle is tight to use a foam roller, it is better to think of the foam roller as a daily tool. It can be effective for unexpected pains, but using it every day helps with the prevention of injury in the first place.

When using a foam roller, apply firm pressure to the area, so tension is released. This can either be done with constant pressure or with the rolling motion. The applied pressure should not cause pain or discomfort, but should feel effective. If the foam roller is causing pain, you may be rolling an inflamed area, which can actually inhibit its healing. In this case, roll a bit away from the area, as to not cause further injury.

Roll the foam roller slowly and deliberately. Rolling too quickly will not allow your muscles the time they need to manage the compression. When you begin foam rolling, start out very slowly with light pressure and brief sessions. Progress to more intense pressure with time.

Leg Rolls

  • Foot roll: Bend your knees and sit on the floor with your feet on the roller. Lean back on your arms for balance and roll the soles of your feet on the foam roller.
  • Shin roll: Balance yourself on your hands and knees. Lift one leg before placing the roller under your shin. Roll your shin beginning at the knee and moving down to the ankle. Do this on both sides.
  • Calf roll: Sit on the floor with one knee bent to your chest. Straighten your opposite leg and place the foam roller under that calf. Roll the entire calf, beginning at the Achilles tendon. Repeat this with the other leg. This can also be done using both legs at the same time to do an outer leg roll.

Tight IT Band

The IT band attaches your hip with the area just below the knee. It helps to stabilize your knees while you are moving, and is a very common place for injuries to occur. IT band syndrome occurs when the IT band becomes inflamed or tight. When the IT band is injured, almost any movement of the knee may become painful, because the IT band is stretching the knee out of its alignment. A foam roller can help lengthen your IT band, resulting in a smaller chance of injury.

Common Pains

For common pains, using a foam roller for a small amount of time each day will help you gain longer lasting results than going to a single therapy session every once in a while. Some common pains that a foam roller can alleviate include lower back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, and knee pain.

This is a great inexpensive tool to help you reach your fitness goals.

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Frank Salvatore