Written By: Elsie Ross CPT with Prescription Fitness (CLE, Ohio)

If you have walked into a gym lately, I am sure you have seen them – the colored tubes lying in a corner somewhere.  Perhaps you have seen someone rolling around on one and you’ve wondered what they are and what their purpose is.  Well, I am going to explain what they are and, more importantly, why you should consider using one.  Although foam rollers are simple in design, they are complex in the benefits they offer when used properly.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

  • Foam rolling helps you bounce back faster after a tough workout.

If you train daily, you probably already know that aside from making it to the gym, the second biggest battle is recovering from the intense workout you just put yourself through.  While making sure you get enough sleep, eat the right foods, and drink enough water can assist with recovery, adding a foam roller to your routine is a smart move.

  • You will be less sore.

Soreness can prevent you from keeping up with your workout plan and delayed onset muscle soreness can also compromise muscle function.  With foam rolling, you can expect to experience a little bit less soreness so that you can get back to the gym sooner.

  • Reduces arterial stiffness.

Performing self-myofascial release (SMR) with a foam roller will help you restore and extend your muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue.  You can improve arterial stiffness by focusing on rolling the adductor, hamstrings, quads, IT band, and the traps.

  • Improve flexibility and range of motion.

Foam rolling has been shown to increase flexibility when it is combined with a static stretching protocol.   While you can use a roller to help massage sore muscles after a tough workout it can also help to maintain range of motion and even improve flexibility in the muscles you target.

  • Fewer injuries.

Besides soreness, recovery, and being more flexible, the most important benefit to foam rolling is that when you improve your proper range of motion you improve your overall performance capability.   This is huge because when you improve your overall performance, you can execute movements with better technique and experience fewer injuries.

If you feel you are ready to try foam rolling, here are a few tips:

  • Choose the right roller – Foam rollers come with different surfaces. Some are soft and some are firm.  I recommend starting with a softer roller for your first time.
  • Don’t overdo it – keep in mind that the foam roller should be just one tool in your arsenal. It will not replace a dynamic warm up but it can supplement it.
  • Roll it out slowly – foam rolling is not a race. Slow and steady is best.  Take your time to roll over the full length of the muscle.
  • Use it after your workout for max recovery – instead of going home to lie on the couch, grab a post-workout drink and foam roller. While foam rolling before your workout might help you loosen up a bit, it won’t increase performance, strength or endurance. Instead, use it after your workouts, targeting the muscles you worked that day in the gym.

Whether you want to boost recovery, be less sore, or achieve better mobility and function, the foam roller is has you covered.