Back to basics: What is a foam roller?
It’s a piece of equipment that enables us to release tension in our muscle fibres, like a deep DIY massage. The hard surface comes into contact with adhesions within the muscle, which relaxes the surrounding tissue and trigger points. Your body weight creates the pressure that massages and releases these tight spots – so you’re completely in control. It can also be administered by a coach or personal trainer. Predominantly, it aids the recovery of muscles, helping them to return to their normal, elasticated selves.
Run us through their key benefits?
Not only do they increase blood flow to boost healthy, soft tissue, they also help stretch you out, in turn increasing range of motion, while decreasing risk of injury. They’re a great tool for soothing aches in the lower back and in-between the shoulder blades too. Try gently rolling along the length of the muscles located in that area to reap the benefits – do go slowly, no more than one inch or so per second. They’re specifically good for those doing repetitive exercises that use the same movement continuously – think motorcycling and tennis.
When should we be using them day-to-day?
Ideally, pre- or post-workout. Before exercise will help to increase tissue elasticity and boost blood flow, making you less prone to injuries while enabling you to be more flexible. Post-workout rolling is a great way to enhance recovery and increase oxygen to sore, weary muscle fibres.
Is there an incorrect way of using them? How can we tell?
Try not to use them directly on a joint or a bone as it won’t offer much benefit, it’s more likely to just cause pain. And keep usage short, you only need to use it for about 15 minutes maximum, passing it once up and down each section in the body.
What are some quick, easy routines to try with a roller?
Work the roller up from the calves into the hamstrings then through to the lower back and shoulder blades before turning over to massage the front of the body, including quads and inner thighs. Do this prior to your cardio workout and you’ll feel completely stretched out – trust me, you’ll notice a difference.
Finally, is it true you can use it to tone your inner and outer thighs?
The foam roller is more frequently used to massage the fibres of the inside (adductors) and outside (IT bands) of the thighs. However, it can also be used during certain core exercises to engage the adductors and pelvic floor muscles – this will be done by placing the roller between the inner thighs. For an easy, simple move, try bending your right knee, placing your right thigh over the foam roller while your other leg lies flat. Slowly begin to roll the foam roller in towards your groin, stopping when you find a tight spot, then continue until you are below the groin. Finish by rolling it back down then repeat on the other side.