If you’re not using a foam roller, we have one question for you: why not? Maybe you don’t know how to use it, or what it’s for. Maybe you’ve watched someone roll on top of it while cringing and biting their lip and wondered “Why would someone do that?!” Maybe you just don’t buy the hype. So to answer your burning questions, here are three quick responses:
Yes, it hurts a little!
Yes, it works!
And yes, you should be doing it!
Foam rolling has become the way to perform self-myofascial release—a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. Basically, by applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to help your muscles recover. Of course, getting a deep tissue massage is a nice way to go too, but it takes a lot of time and gets very expensive. For as little as $25 you can find a basic foam roller and in 10 minutes begin that well-needed release your muscles need to stay pain-free. Let’s look at the awesome health benefits of foam rolling before we get into six basic foam roller moves to loosen your tight muscles.
Health Benefits Of Using A Foam Roller
Foam rolling has gained popularity in recent years as more research reveals the incredible benefits it provides for the body. Here are just seven science-backed benefits to take note of.
1. It Loosens Up Tight, Sore Muscles
Ever gone from lounging on the couch to hitting the pavement for a jog without taking the time to properly loosen up? You’ve likely felt extremely stiff. Foam rolling is a great way to loosen up your muscles before a workout so you can get the most out of your exercise. One study conducted by the National Strength & Conditioning Association concluded that athletes who took advantage of foam rolling before exercising felt much less fatigued than those who chose not to foam roll.
2. Reduces Stress
High levels of stress can take a toll on your health, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape. Constant stress is linked to increased hormones such as cortisol that stimulate your appetite, promote weight gain and fat storage, and disrupt your sleep. One university study from South Korea found that foam rolling can reduce cortisol levels, helping you better manage stress.
3. Prevents Injury
Injury prevention isn’t just about being careful, but about being proactive. A consistent routine of stretching and foam rolling can help keep pesky and painful injuries linked with tightness and overuse at bay by loosening up the muscles. Studies have concluded that loosening up the muscles increases the compliance of the muscle-tendon unit, therefore preventing the body from demanding energy absorption and release that can exceed the capacity of the muscle-tendon unit that leads to injury.
4. Increases Flexibility
Loosening up your muscles through foam rolling can also boost their elasticity. The more flexible the muscles, the more power they can produce. In fact, a 2014 study found that foam rolling even increased an athlete’s range of motion.
5. Boosts Circulation
Proper blood circulation is important on a multitude of levels. Massages work to improve circulation through the arteries, veins and capillaries in your body, which allows them to receive more oxygen to feel refreshed. One study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association found that arterial stiffness was decreased while vascular endothelial function was increased after using a foam roller.
6. Prevents Soreness
By increasing flexibility and blood flow, foam rolling can also prevent muscle soreness. A 2015 study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association concluded that foam rolling was significantly effective in lessening muscle fatigue and soreness.
7. Increases Range Of Motion
A 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the range of motion in every major joint in the body decreases with age. This can cause everyday tasks to feel painful. Decreased range of motion can also lead to injury. Foam rolling helps to increase range of motion, and compared to static stretching before a workout, can increase muscle force.
How To Use A Foam Roller
It’s not that difficult to use a foam roller; just use this three-step approach!
- Roll over whole area to investigate and soften your muscles approximately ten times.
- Find your sore spot or trigger point—pin it, hold it, lean into it, add pressure.
- Cross friction—knead it back and forth across the muscle.
6 Foam Roller Moves To Loosen Tight Muscles
Here are six simple foam rolling moves that cover the majority of common muscle issues. For each move, spend at least 30 seconds rolling slowly and gently and if you find a “knot” in the muscle you are rolling, stop for a few seconds and let the roller apply pressure to that spot. It will be uncomfortable at first, but keep breathing and let the roller do its work. Momentary discomfort will lead to long-term relief! It will also make future workouts better and prevent injury in the long-run.
2) Walk feet slowly forward as the roller glides up your back. Stop and concentrate on any tight areas. (Note: do not foam roll the low back. Try a massage ball on either side of the spine to help relieve tight muscles.)
3) Move forward and back for 30-60 seconds.
2) Lift your hips off the ground and slowly pull body backwards so roller glides up your calf. Move back and forth gently for 30 seconds, stopping at any tight areas.
2) Keep right leg relaxed and long with the left knee bent over the roller and left foot on the ground.
2) Begin to press into the left foot on the ground, slowly moving the body back as the foam roller rolls down the right hamstring. Keep right leg relaxed as you roll.
3) Glide up and down the muscle for 30-60 seconds concentrating on any tighter areas.
4) Switch sides.
IT Band Relief
2) Bend left knee and place left foot in front of right foot.
3) Relax your right leg as you slowly roll yourself back so the foam roller glides up your leg. Move gently back and forth for 30-60 seconds, concentrating on any tight areas.
4) Switch sides.
2) Twisting slightly to the right, push slowly into your feet so your body begins to move back and the roller glides down along your lats on the right. Return slowly to start.
2) Repeat for 30-60 seconds concentrating on any tight areas.
4) Switch sides.
2) Slowly press arms to straight pulling the body upward and forward so the foam roller glides across the front of the thighs.
3) If you choose, you can lean your body weight onto one leg and roll and then switch to the other instead of rolling both evenly.
4) Gently continue to push and pull the roller over the thighs for 30-60 seconds, concentrating on any tight areas.
Try these rolling moves before and/or after any workout, or use them at home any time you need to release your tightness or knots. You can do them every day, but 2-3 times a week is recommended.