Let me start this article by saying that you definitely need a foam roller. Once a well-kept secret of therapists and athletes, foam rolling has now become more and more mainstream. Whether you are a runner, sit behind your desk for hours on end, or dabble in athletics, you can enjoy a number of foam roller benefits. But what is it? On the surface it appears to be nothing more than a cylindrically shaped sponge. Well, don’t be so easily fooled by the looks.
Foam rollers are tools used for self-massage in order to loosen tight muscles and relieve tension, something also known as self-myofascial release. Regular use of a foam roller offers almost the same benefits as a sports massage, and does it virtually for free. This tool helps you reduce muscle tension and increase muscle length, which will have a noticeable impact on your performance in the gym. Once you start feeling the foam roller benefits, the tool will become an inseparable part of your regular workout routine.
Benefits of foam rolling thanks to myofascial release
So what are the most important benefits of foam rolling? If you want to find out, keep scrolling because you’re on the right page. This article goes in length, telling you exactly why you need to foam roll.
But before we tackle the details and talk about the benefits of foam rolling, let`s define myofascial release first. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, myofascial release is the application of gentle sustained pressure on soft tissue over a longer period of time. The purpose is to relax contracted muscles, thus improving blood flow and nutrient flow to one particular area. The result is reduced internal rubbing, causing muscles to operate much better.
What does a form roller do and how does it work?
Two of the major benefits of foam roller exercises are improved health and reduced risk of injury. And here is how a cylindrical sponge can achieve that.
Released muscle tension
One of the best reasons why you should foam roll is the general feeling of relief and relaxation. Translated in vernacular, your muscles feel great. Fascia is the connective tissue that wraps every muscle in the body. When muscles are contracted, fascia losses its elasticity, which in turn makes them tight and stiff.
The pressure, therefore, applied to muscles via foam rolling, causes them to stretch and loosen. Over a period of time, this results with blood being squeezed from your muscles and connective tissue, ultimately improving the circulation. Blood carries oxygen and glycogen, both of which are vital nutrients for exhausted muscles. The greater the blood flow, the better and more beneficial the results.
Loosened and hydrated muscles cause lesser friction. This means that when you are working out, movements are much smoother and there is less chance that muscles will be pulled or damaged.
Therefore, foam rolling exercises are recommended before a workout as a form of a dynamic warm-up. Even though it seems counterintuitive to roll on the floor one inch at a time, before you hit the ground running, the results are reduced risk of injury and improved performance.
Better range of motion
Another one of the foam roller benefits is that properly stretched and loosened muscles have improved range of motion. That means that more muscles can be utilized during a given workout, resulting in a more effective routine. Better range of motion opens the possibility for a more flexible body, and this can skyrocket your routine in terms of effectiveness.
Tight muscles can lead to posture imbalances. By releasing the fascia, foam rolling can help with the correction of such imbalances, making you sit straight. Over a period of time, the practice of foam rolling can greatly improve your posture, changing your appearance irrespective of your results with a given workout program.
Having in mind the foam roller benefits for back pain, it is no wonder that your posture will immediately improve after treating the back area with a number of foam rolling exercises.
Foam rolling won`t just make your muscles happy. Studies have shown that foam rolling exercises can help calm your nervous system, as it targets acupressure points connected to the adrenal glands. On the same note, it also helps reduce the levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone that we all hate.
Most fitness programs can feel daunting and stressful to keep up with. So much so that a simple change in your program, where you sit down to relax with a series of foam roller exercises can literally save your streak, keeping you on track.
Improved quality of sleep
Another positive benefit of foam rolling is the fact that it will stimulate the production of serotonin, also known as “the happy hormone”. Serotonin, then again, is used to produce melatonin, “the sleep hormone”, which communicates to your brain that it needs to slow down and prepare for sleep. Regular foam rolling will make you sleep better, therefore alleviating stress and anxiety in general.
At the end of the day, it’s a magic spiral that keeps climbing upwards. Nevertheless, a sustained practice of foam rolling will make sure that you develop a sustained track of quality rest.
Reduced risk of injuries
As we`ve already said, self-massage increases circulation. Better circulation leads to better range of motion and more effective movements. In general, myofascial release achieved by foam rolling improves the coordination of the body, thus reducing the chance of injury. In other words, it reduces the likelihood of an improper movement that might lead to an injury down the road.
Beginners often neglect the positive benefits of foam rolling by postponing the practice for much later in their fitness journey. But the opposite is true – the sooner you get used to foam rolling the better.
Injuries tend to happen at the beginning of your fitness journey, and then somewhere after a month or two if you learn to habitually push yourself beyond your capacity. The benefits of foam rolling for weight loss are then quite evident – keeping you on your track, it facilitates weight loss, making sure that you’ll never abandon your program prematurely.
If you have decided to complete a 5K or take part in a longer race, the benefits of foam rolling for runners are exactly the same. After a while, you cannot afford to skip a training session, yet alone a couple of them. Rolling regularly with this tool will help you stay on your track.
Research has shown that doing foam rolling exercises before a workout can increase the range of motion without decreasing the muscle power that can result from static stretching. This improved range of motion can actually help in making you stronger. And this may well be one of the biggest benefits of foam rolling to runners, among others, as foam rolling before a running event, for example, can be just what you’ve been missing in your effort to achieve that new personal best.
Decreased recovery time
Foam rolling is also a perfect way to conclude a workout. It doesn`t only help decrease soreness by breaking down waste products (such as lactic acid) build-up in the muscles, but also assists the overall post-workout process of recovery by reducing or preventing the adhesion of the muscles.
And the sooner the muscles recover, the sooner they can start to rebuild. If you, therefore, have been investing in vitamins and supplements, or different types of why powder, without at first experimenting with the foam roller, there is definitely plenty of room for improvement.
Some studies suggest that foam rolling before a workout doesn’t affect performance in any measurable way, but most of the literature is set on the benefits of foam rolling when it comes to a post workout session.
If you are doing heavy weight lifting, plenty of squats, and intense bodyweight movements, foam rolling can make wonders for your post workout recovery.
Reduced cellulite and improved circulation
Ladies, are you with me? Yes, you heard it right. Let’s talk about the foam rolling benefits for cellulite. These can be temporary, but hey, every bit of help is more than welcomed. Foam rolling stimulates blood circulation and boosts the lymphatic system, which helps to briefly reduce dimpling in the skin. So at least make a habit to roll with it before you put on that sexy short dress.
How to do foam rolling exercises right?
In order to enjoy the benefits of foam rolling, there are a couple of points to be made. First of all, many people take up the practice because it provides an immediate relief from injuries and pain – which is definitely acceptable. Similarly to the way that foam rolling helps to prevent injuries, it can ease the pain caused by stiff and inflamed tissue and fascia.
You can use a foam roller for lower back pain, neck or knee pain, but it is extremely important that you keep several things in mind and try to avoid the following common mistakes:
- Using a foam role directly to an injured area. This might increase inflammation and curb the healing process. It is therefore best to start rolling a few inches away from the painful spot first, and then use larger motions to cover the entire area.
- Rolling too fast. Foam roller movements should be slow and concentrated, otherwise your muscles won`t have time to adapt and the desired effect of eliminating adhesions won`t be achieved. Myofascial release happens when you are thorough and patient!
- Spending excessive time on knots. Foam rollers are good to use on knots, but if you spend too much time on the same spot, you could easily damage some of the tissue or nerves. To prevent this from happening, spend no more than 20 seconds on the tender spot with moderate pressure that exerts sufficient tension. You should expect a mild discomfort, but stop if you feel any pain.
- Using bad posture. Using an improper form or balance while doing foam rolling exercises may cause further deviations to exiting postural issues causing even greater injuries. The best way to keep your form in check is to consult a trainer or watch some foam rolling exercise videos before you start rolling.
- Using a foam roller directly on your lower back. This is something you have to remember to avoid, as rolling your lower back may be counterproductive, hence worsening the injury. Instead, always roll the muscles that connect to it, like your upper back, but stop as you reach the end of your rib cage.
Now you know the benefits of foam rolling
Having read all of the foam rolling benefits, you might still ask yourself whether you are a good candidate for the foam roller. The answer is – most people can benefit from rolling, either as part of their workout routine or simply as a break from long periods of sitting. However, if you have open wounds or fractures, or you suffer from medical conditions such as arthritis, advanced osteoporosis deep-vein thrombosis or neuropathy, you should stay away from the roller.
In any case, consult your doctor or work with a personal trainer if you are uncertain whether and how to use this tool that might set you off on the roll to a better health. Knowing full well the benefits of foam rolling, there is no excuse to avoid it any more.