You’ve likely encountered a foam roller lurking in the corner of your gym, but you’re probably a little clueless when it comes to actually using it. As it turns out, foam rollers are one of the most powerful tools for alleviating muscle soreness, preventing injury, and enhancing athletic performance. A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of foam (almost like a firm, wide pool noodle) that is roughly six inches in diameter and anywhere from a foot to three feet in length. The technique involves rolling your body back and forth across the foam roller, applying direct pressure to trouble spots on the body, increasing blood flow and loosening muscle knots in those areas. Think of it like giving yourself a deep tissue massage, but for a fraction of the price.
“From constantly training, muscle and tendons tend to get tight, but unfortunately, not everyone can afford a sports massage,” says Dr. Scott Weiss, D.P.T., A.T., CSCS, a licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer based in Manhattan. That’s where foam rollers come in: “They offer relief to tight, stiff, and sore muscles through mechanical rolling of tissues.”
Foam rollers allow you to hit every sore spot on the body, including the spine, IT band, calves, glutes, hip flexors, and so on. By foam rolling for just a few minutes a day, you can prevent injury and loosen tense muscles, which in turn can keep you on track with your fitness goals.
Not just for hardcore athletes or marathon runners, foam rollers can benefit virtually anybody, especially those who are afflicted by chronically tight, stiff muscles (which, sadly, most of us are). We’d be lying if we said foam rolling didn’t hurt, though—it does. But the short term pain is definitely worth the long term gain (i.e., no overuse injuries).
Although you can foam roll before or after a workout, Dr. Weiss suggests whipping out the foam roller after you exercise to reap the most benefits. “Foam rollers can be used both before exercise to help limber up, but I prefer them during the cool down portion of the workout to thwart a muscle hangover and help reduce some muscle soreness,” he says.
So you want to start foam rolling but have absolutely no idea where to begin? No need to worry—we’ve got you covered. Below, Barry’s Bootcamp Nashville trainer Megan Conner leads you through five basic foam-rolling moves to get you started on your way to DOMS relief.
Megan Conner has been in the fitness business training and teaching for almost 15 years. From New York City to Nashville to LA, she has traveled the country helping people reach their goals and their fitness potential. Megan currently lives in Nashville where she teaches at Barry’s Bootcamp and has recently opened Megan Conner Fitness, a personal training studio in 12 South. Read Megan’s blog at http://inspireatrun.com/