Are you into the foam rolling trend? This growing form of self-guided muscle massaging involves taking a cylindrical piece of equipment made out of foam and using it to roll out your muscles in an effort to relieve tension and tightness from exercise and general stress. Called “self-myofascial release,” it’s the next best thing to a deep tissue massage without actually having to book an appointment with a massage therapist!
Foam rollers come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes — from spiky rumble rollers for serious muscle massaging to compact rollers that are easy to take with you when traveling. The type of foam roller you need depends on what kind of shape your muscles are in and how much pain you can tolerate.
There’s still a lot of research to be done to determine the real effects of foam rolling, but so far, there seems to be some clear benefits. Here’s what you can get out of making foam rolling a habit in your own active lifestyle.
It improves flexibility and relieves muscle soreness. A regular yoga practice is great for increasing flexibility, but foam rolling may help you take your performance to the next level with some of the trickier asanas. Research has shown that foam rolling increases oxygen delivery to the muscles, improves flexibility, and speeds up the recovery process of sore muscles without diminishing athletic performance.
It increases range of motion. Range of motion in joints like the hips, knees, feet, shoulders, elbows and wrists are important in yoga and other forms of exercise to support strength and flexibility. In a study conducted on soccer players who used foam rolling techniques for two minutes on their quadriceps and hamstrings, results showed that they significantly improved their range of motion in the knees and hips.
It prevents injury. Regular exercise naturally causes the muscles to tighten up and develop knots from the repetitive stress they’re facing. Taking the time to foam roll those really tight spots makes them less likely to turn into injury trigger spots cramping, shin splints, lower back pain and other types of injuries.
It’s affordable and you can do it almost anywhere. Foam rollers can be purchased for less than $50 and used over and over again. You can spend 2 to 5 minutes rolling out your muscles before or after your regular workout, or you can even do an extra long session for 30 to 45 minutes to work on your toughest spots.
Before you start shopping around for a good foam roller, there’s one unfortunate downside you need to know about. Be prepared to experience a fair bit of pain the first few times you use it — especially if your muscles are super tight and tense. After spending a few days or weeks working out the worst of that tightness, foam rolling should start to mostly feel like it hurts “in a good way” as opposed to continuing to feel nearly torturous.
Foam rolling will definitely compliment your yoga practice or practically any other form of exercise that involves cardio or strength training. Keep it up, and you’ll definitely feel a difference!