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Foam rolls have a moment. These handy stretch sesh buddies from the 80s are now available in different colors, types and sizes. And in a world of fitness apps and fitness stuff, it’s refreshing to use such a simple device.
Just what you think: you grab a small block of foam and roll on it to relieve muscle tension, inflammation, and post-workout pain. With consistent use, your foam roller can also increase the freedom of movement of your joints.
Foam rolling is a type of myofascial release, a style of massage that involves putting sustained pressure on sore or tight muscles. Fans say it̵
Foam rolls are lightweight and small enough to keep handy in a car or backpack for outdoor hiking or biking adventures.
Scroll on to find out six ways foam rollers could improve your day.
Do you feel a little tender after the leg day? Break out the foam roller!
A small 2015 study of young male athletes found that 20 minutes of foam rolling immediately after training (and then once a day for 2 days) resulted in significantly less post-training muscle soreness than non-foam rolling workouts.
A recent study of 80 young adult men found that post-exercise foam rolling soothed their muscles and helped them restore joint stability quickly.
More research is needed into how foam rollers affect women, the elderly, and the less active. But for now we can confidently say that foam is rolling probably has muscle calming powers for everyone.
Followers say their foam rollers increase their freedom of movement. Science says more evidence is needed.
However, a 2015 teenage study of 11 teenage boys found that a routine of foam rolling * plus * static stretching increased their range of motion more than stretching or foam rolling alone.
Obviously, we need more research on how foam rollers affect different body types. 🤷 However, if you want to feel a little looser, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate foam into your pre and post workout stretching routines.
Some people claim that their foam rollers massage away cellulite, but there is no evidence (womp womp).
So what’s up? Generally, cellulite occurs when fat collects between surface-level fascia and collagen fibers. And your roller does massage the fascia of your body (the network of connective tissue that holds your muscles together).
Just like drybrushing, foam rolling can * temporarily * increase blood flow, making your skin look plumper and smoother, but it probably won’t get rid of cellulite.
A small 2014 study suggests that self-myofascial release (foam rolling) can release tension to help you achieve peak performance during exercise.
It makes sense that relaxing your muscles and joints can also relieve tension-related back pain. However, this study only included 11 participants and more research is needed.
Be careful though: back pain is not a joke. You will want to roll in the right shape so it doesn’t get worse.
To avoid straining your lower back, rotate the foam roller so that it is parallel to your spine. Slowly roll from side to side to work the knots in your lower back and shoulder blades until the tension subsides.
Anyone with fibromyalgia knows that fibrosis symptoms can interfere with even the simplest daily activity. From fatigue to stiffness to pain, memories of the illness are constant.
A small study of 66 people with fibromyalgia found that those who used a foam roller on the reg for 20 weeks or more seem to have less:
There aren’t a lot of scientific studies about how foam rolls affect people with fibromyalgia, but preliminary research is promising.
Tension headaches, aching back, gummy bears – tense muscles make us moody AF.
Foam roll fans say the activity helps them relax, which makes sense. It is, after all, a form of self-massage.
However, research linking foam rolling to relaxation is quite limited. A small study concluded that foam rolling reduced stress hormones only slightly than just resting on your back.
Pretty sure! If you exercise your muscles regularly, getting them massaged is probably okay too.
Here’s when to avoid foam rolls:
- if you have a torn muscle
- if you have a broken bone
- if you are in your third pregnancy
If you have serious injuries, it is best to speak to your doctor before popping your foam roller out.
And if you’re preggo, there is a small chance that leg massages will cause premature labor or remove a life-threatening blood clot. This situation is rare, but we recommend checking with your doctor before using a foam roller.
- Apply light pressure if you are new to using foam rollers.
- Avoid rolling over your joints – knees, elbows, and ankles.
- Use the foam roller in sections on your legs – for example, quads first, then calves. This will keep you from rolling over the back of your knees.
The answer depends on your training goals and personal preferences.
Some foam rollers are soft and some are firm. Some foam rollers are textured while others are smooth. Here’s the breakdown of the pros and cons of each type.
Your first foam roll may not be your favorite foam roll. Sometimes it takes a few tries, so you may want to try them out at the gym or store before handing out some change.
Are you ready for this
4 steps to the perfect foam roller
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out.
- Position an area of your body on the roller. For example, it’s easy to start with your calves. To adjust the pressure, brace yourself so that you put less weight on the platen.
- Slowly roll sore spots for 10 seconds with light pressure. (Unlock Pro status by working up to a full minute!)
- Chug a lot of H.2O after rolling. This helps with muscle regeneration.
Do you still feel unsafe? Chat with a physical therapist or trainer at the gym for step-by-step instructions.
- Foam rollers can be very helpful for muscle tension before or after training.
- They’re also great for exercising pain when sitting too long or sleeping in the wrong position.
- Using a foam roller can also improve your freedom of movement.
- Although some people claim that their foam rollers reduce cellulite or general stress, there is little scientific evidence to support these benefits.
- If you’ve had a serious injury or are pregnant, talk to your doctor before adding a foam roller to your daily routine.