Take a look at any physical therapist’s office and you most likely see foam rollers. These rehabilitation devices are made of polyethylene foam and are shaped like a cylinder tube. They can be from 1 to 4 feet long and approximately 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
Foam rollers are used in rehabilitation clinics and some gyms due to the convenience and versatility. Foam roller exercises help patients improve balance and core stability, while at the same time offer some of the deep tissue benefits of sports massage without the hefty price tag.
(photo by mybodystudios)
Purchasing a Foam Roller
This simple piece of equipment comes in a couple of different sizes. For example, some rollers are up to 36 inches long while others are only 18 inches in length. Sometimes people prefer the shorter rollers if they plan on traveling with equipment.
Foam rollers also allow for different degrees of pressure. Some rollers are hard, while others may be softer. You can pick the roller that provides an adequate amount of firmness and comfort that is suited for you.
Benefits of a Foam Roller Exercises
When using a foam roller, you can experience effective physical benefits in a short period of time. Despite its simplicity, the foam roller offers a variety of benefits to include:
- Stretching and lengthening of tight or overused muscles
- Improved blood circulation in your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments
- Easy to use by applying your own body weight
- Similar physical benefits as a deep tissue or myofascia massage
- Inexpensive and convenient to use
- Helps increase your body’s range of motion
- Can be used for rehabilitation and exercise
- Helps to lengthen and stabilize muscles
- Imp[roves posture and balance
- Increases overall body flexibility
How to Use the Foam Roller
There are several different applications that the foam roller can be used for. This piece of equipment is fairly straight forward; however, it might take some practice to successfully master the proper mechanics of this fitness tool.
Here are a few general tips to help you get started on a productive foam roller routine:
- Warm up your muscles prior to engaging in foam roller exercises
- Carefully position the foam roller under the part of your body that you want to loosen
- Don’t rush through the routine; move slowly and deliberately
- Try not to roll over your bones or joints: stick to the soft tissue areas of the body
- Focus on areas where you need to increase your range of motion
- Skip a day between foam roller workouts to allow your body to rest
- Consult with a doctor or stop the activity if the roller is causing additional pain to any existing injuries
Foam Roller Exercises
Depending on your condition or fitness goal, you can utilize the foam roller for a wide variety of physical ailments, or as a valuable asset to your fitness repertoire.
The following example will help you get started on a few exercises that will help with certain injuries as well as your fitness needs:
Myofascial Release: Myofascial release is a technique that utilizes some of the soft tissue of the body’s fascia. The body’s fascia connects your bones, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. The fascia and muscles make up the body’s myofacia system.
Through overuse or chronic injuries, your bodies myofacia can become stuck together, which often results in pain as well as restrictive range of motion. By using the foam roller to apply direct pressure on these tight areas, you can effectively soften and release the troubled parts of the body.
Iliotibial Band Stretch: The Iliotibial band is a tendon that runs along the outside of your hip down to your knee joint. When this tendon becomes tight, pain often results in the outer part of the knee.
To help elleviate this pain, start by lying on the side of the effected knee with the foam roller directly on the ground beneath your leg and just below the hip.
Bend your top leg, while keeping the bottom leg straight, and gently roll down to just above the knee area. Concentrate on the tight areas of your IT band by pausing and applying more weight to those areas. This may be painful at first, but as your IT band loosens up, the pain will decrease.
Perform 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Glute Roll: Tight gluteus maximus muscles can sometimes result in decreased flexibility and can cause hip, back and knee pain.
Start this exercise in a supine position with a foam roller positioned directly under your glutes. Slowly roll down the foam roller while stabilizing yourself with your hand flat against the ground. Stop as your get to your knee area and then roll back up to your glutes.
Pause and apply pressure to any tight areas of your glutes and hamstring muscles. Perform 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Core Stabilization Exercise: Foam roller exercises can enhance overall core strength due to the foam roller’s lack of stability. This movement causes the participant to utilize stabilizing muscles of the body to prevent the foam roller from slipping during activity.
Start this exercise by lying supine on the roller with both knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Hold your arms out at your side for balance, while contracting your abdominal muscles. Then lift both feet off the ground about 6 inches and hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. Perform 34 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of this exercise.