Foam roller: what is it, what are its benefits and how to use it

The foam roller is one of the fashionable instruments to do massages at home. Specifically, it is used by athletes to relieve muscle tension after training.

Last update: 02 August, 2021

The foam roller or foam roller is an instrument used as a muscle recovery technique. Use the principle of myofascial self-release. In physiology, myofascial release consists of techniques that target tough connective tissue and body muscle to release its tension, stress, and pain.

With the help of a special foam roller, pressure is applied to specific areas of the muscles. All this is done with the help of body weight, so it is a simple and very practical method.

What are the benefits of the foam roller?

The principle under which the foam roller is very simple: it acts directly on the trigger points or trigger points, relaxing the muscle tissues and the structure that supports them. The trigger points are nodules 2 to 10 millimeters in size that form on muscle fibers.

They can develop for different reasons, although they are very common in injuries, high intensity training, weight lifting and stress. In some cases, they can cause pain and muscle tension.

Provides relaxation and reduces fatigue

An article published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2014 endorses the use of foam roller for its relaxing qualities. The study was applied to 26 young people and revolved around basic exercises with the rolling foam.

The results showed a decrease in pain with a considerable increase in relaxation. Therefore, using this handy instrument is useful for athletes to rest after strenuous training. In turn, it can be used as relaxation therapy.

Improves range of motion in joints

An investigation published in Sports Medicine in 2020 indicated that the massage roller it is also useful to improve the spectrum of movement of the joints. This can be helpful for patients recovering from an injury, such as a sprain.

Having flexible joints is helpful in all sports, even disciplines where movement is low-impact. In yoga, pilates or meditation you need to perform the movements and keep them unperturbed. If you think your joints are tight, you can use the foam roller as therapy from home.

The foam roller It can be a great help in the context of Pilates, to contribute to the flexibility of the joints.

Can be used as a heating method

An article published in 2019 in the magazine Frontiers in Physiology suggests that the properties of this tool are best used when used as heating. Not like recovery therapy.

If stretching is dispensed with, the body is exposed to injuries and longer than usual days of recovery. By using it before and after each workout, we are improving the response our muscles experience to exertion. If your time allows it, feel free to use the foam roller in your stretching exercises.

Reduces muscle pain

Multiple studies and research have certified the usefulness of the foam roller to reduce muscle pain. Whether of psychological or physical origin, people claim to experience improvement after doing high-impact training.

Delayed myalgia, also known as late-onset muscle pain or just like shoelaces, is a common problem among sports lovers. People who have been out of shape for a long time or exert themselves in their workouts are more prone to the condition. The use of this instrument can alleviate this pain and motivate an early recovery.

How to use the foam roller correctly

Based on its benefits we have learned two things: the foam roller can be used before and after a training routine. This does not need to be aerobic exercises, as you can use it if you lift weights at the gym or do squats at home.

The method consists of applying body weight on the roller. For this you use different positions with forward and backward movements that exert tension on the muscle knots. It is important that you regulate the amount of force you do well, since if it is excessive it can further complicate the pain.

The way you regulate the pressure is by leaning your body or using your arms as support on the ground to support part of the load. Start by just applying a little weight and increase as you feel confident.

During the process you must take care of the posture of your cervicals and lower back, because if you do not you can apply greater tension and injure yourself. Although at first it can be difficult to take all this into account, it is only a matter of a couple of days before you become a master of the foam roller.

Exercises with the foam roller

The foam roller can be used on all muscle groups, although lower body muscles are preferred for functional reasons. Spreading the weight and applying different levels of pressure is much easier in these places.

Here are some exercises that can be done with it:

  • Calves: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out and the roller in front of you. Place it under one of your calves and bend the knee of the free leg. Rest your hands on the floor, raise your hips, and move back and forth with your back straight.
  • Iliotibial band: Lie on your side with the roller under the outside of your thigh. Bend your free leg over it so that it supports the ground. Use your elbow for support and bend your free hand forward for better balance. Do movements that cover the entire IT band.
  • Buttocks: Sit on the roller and cross one of your legs to exert more pressure on only one of the buttocks. Hold the crossed leg with one hand and use the free one for support on the floor. Perform movements that cover the entire length of this muscle.
  • Hamstrings: Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your thighs. Stretch your legs in the air and bring your extended hands back for support. Do movements that cover just below your knees up to the buttocks. Remember to always look forward.
  • Abductors– Lie on your stomach with your elbows bent on the floor. Stretch one of your legs laterally and place the roller under your hamstrings. With your torso in the air, perform movements that cover this entire muscle group.
  • Quadriceps: Lie on your stomach with your elbow on the floor. Position the roller under one of your quads and raise your free leg in the air. With your back straight and taking advantage of the movement of your arms, go up and down to release tension in this area.
The foam roller It has been shown to promote stretching and reduce muscle aches.

Foam roller contraindications

We have already warned about the risk of injury if you do not take care of the posture of your back. It is very important that you pay attention to this, as many exercises are performed with only one leg and all the stress is on the leg. If your back muscles are very weak or you have a history of severe low back pain, it is best to avoid its use.

Other contexts in which the foam roller is contraindicated are the following:

  • Very recent injuries to the muscle groups involved.
  • Existing joint or bone injuries (these can get worse with movement).
  • Open wounds that have not fully healed.

Remember that the roller exerts direct pressure not only on the muscles, but also also in nearby blood vessels. If you suffer from varicose veins or any other major circulatory condition, complications may arise.

Keep in mind that the foam roller does not replace a physiologist or orthopedic surgeon. If you have a previous injury or any discomfort persists in your muscles, do not hesitate to seek professional assistance. Although its effectiveness is backed by many studies, don't expect it to be the solution to any discomfort after training.

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