If you have spent any time in a gym or physical therapy clinic, you have probably seen people rolling around on the ground on top of foam cylinders, grimacing in pain. This foam roller is a large “log” made out of foam that helps your body to warm up for exercise and recover afterwards. They are one of the most popular tools designed to help you maintain or increase your flexibility.
The foam rollers are excellent devices that can help alleviate tension on the IT Band, improve spinal extension, and increase hamstring length. Nowadays more and more fitness professionals are coming to realize the importance of soft tissue’s quality for movement and performance. Foam rolling can be done before the workout, which focuses on problem areas or after the workout, which focuses on all of the muscle groups worked that day.
Foam rollers are often used by therapists and athletes to mimic myofascial release treatments, which are typically used in reduction of muscle immobility and pain. There are several kinds of foam rollers but most are approximately 3-feet long and 6-inches in diameter. You can also find foam rollers with different densities-from soft to hard- where harder foam rollers tend to be more aggressive. But denser and harder foam rollers might be too stiff for some people to use.
Foam rollers benefits are sometimes compared to getting a massage, because fibrous tissue is broken down and circulation is boosted as you roll on it, helping to relieve tension and pain. One study found that foam rolling combined with static stretching can help in increasing both hip flexion and hamstring length more than static stretching alone.
There are certain benefits of using flexibility and mobility rollers such as;
- Reduced tension and pain
- Reduced stress and relax
- Increased flexibility
- Increased mobility or specific movements like the squat
- Lengthening and strengthening shortened muscles.
- Reduced recovery time
Although the after-effects of using a foam roller are great, the actual rolling can be uncomfortable or even painful if you use the wrong amount of pressure. When using the foam roller you should apply enough pressure so that you feel some tension released, either with constant pressure or by making small movements back and forth.
If you are new to foam rolling, the first step in designing a foam rolling routine is to identify your problem areas, and figure out if there are any reasons you need to improve mobility for a specific movement-like squats. You should start gradually with light pressure and a shorter session. In time, you can progress to more intense pressure.
Some of the best foam rolling exercises are as under:
- Foam roller for abs: lie on the floor with the foam roller under your lower abs and extend your legs. Have your feet touch the floor and keep your forearms on the floor. Using your arms to push, walk backwards to make the roller go over your abs then pull with your arms to reverse the roller’s direction.
- Foam rollers for hamstrings: Place the roller under your hamstring and relax your hamstrings and roll from hip to above the back of the knee, 20-30 seconds.
- Foam roller for adductor: Lie on the floor with chest facing towards the floor .Put one leg on the foam roller and shift as much weight as you can onto the foam roll, and slowly roll over the foam between your hip and knee for 20-30 seconds.
- Foam roller for calves: Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath the middle of your calf and your hands behind you. Now slowly lift your hips from the floor by pressing most of your weight on your calf muscle. Roll from knee to ankle for about 20-30 seconds.
- Foam roller for upper back: Lie on your back on the floor by placing foam roller underneath your upper back, protracting your shoulder blades. Now raise your hips from the ground, placing your weight onto the roller. Roll from upper to mid back and do for about 15-30 seconds.
- Foam roller for lower back: Place the foam roller underneath your lower back in a seated position. Raise your hips form the floor and lean back, keeping your weight on the lower back. Now slowly roll over your lower back and remember to keep the weight off of the spine. Do this for about 15-20 seconds.
- Foam roller for chest: Lie down on the top of a foam roller placed below your armpits. Extend one arm forward and press your chest into the foam roller and roll in small movements by releasing tension in your chest. Roll back and forth on your chest and then extend your other arms and repeat for about 15-20 each.