Do you use a foam roller? Perhaps you’re an expert at foam-rolling, or you’ve heard of a foam roller but haven’t quite figured out which one to buy or what to use it for. No worries; this article will cover the basics of foam rollers and basic exercises. Continue reading for some tips from Rachel Seepie, senior fitness specialist for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
First of all, a foam roller is an exercise tool used for stretching out the body’s soft tissue and muscles. It also breaks down soft-tissue adhesions (knots) and scar tissue. This breaks up trigger points and soothes tight fascia (connective tissue), and at the same time it increases blood flow/circulation to the tissue. When using a cylindrical foam roller, you are essentially using your own body weight to perform a myofascial release, which is pretty much a self-massage. Foam-rolling is similar to a sports massage, it’s just a less expensive way to go.
Foam rollers are used by physical therapists, athletes, personal trainers and anyone who likes them. “I use it myself; I recommend it,” said Seepie. “Kids can use them too; [kids who participate] in sports use them a lot, but anyone can use them. Just remember to be cautious with [your] body; if you have back problems or some type of injury, consult your physician first.”
Some benefits of foam-rolling are muscle-tension relief, correcting muscle imbalances, increased range of motion, and, in some cases, injury prevention. “[Foam-rolling] can be done every day,” said Seepie. “The best part is that it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes per session.”
1: Determine what you will use your foam roller for. Before purchasing a foam roller, determine what you need it for. Perhaps you’re looking at soft-tissue massage, or you might want to use it for balance and core training exercises. You could use a foam roller after exercise to help the body recover faster. Perhaps you’re an elder who wants to release tension or tight muscles, or maybe you hurt your ankle or knee and need to work on balance while recovering from the injury.
2: A wide variety of foam rollers is available. After you’ve determined what your foam roller will be used for, you can visit a sporting-goods store or head over to the Salt River Fitness Center and try out the various foam rollers there. They come in all shapes and sizes, with different firmness levels:
Shape: Foam rollers come in half-round shapes and cylindrical shapes, similar to a log.
Size: They range from 12 to 36 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter.
Firmness: Rollers are color coded from least to most firm: white (most soft, recommended for beginners), blue or green (medium firmness) to black (most firm).
Price: The cost depends on firmness level and materials used, ranging from $6 to $30 and up, depending on where you purchase.
3: Learning how to use your foam roller. You can visit the Salt River Fitness Center free of charge for foam-rolling tips and exercises. Seepie describes foam-rolling “like [massaging] dough that has lumps and you’re smoothing it out.” Keep in mind that if you have a history of injuries, you should speak to your physician before attempting any exercises.
“People always look at the legs and back, but you can also do your shoulders [and torso]. It’s painful. I’m not going to say that it’s the most pleasant thing, but it is beneficial,” said Seepie. “People, especially runners, have said that it helps them out a lot. They tend to have problems with their IT bands [iliotibial band; it runs down the outer thigh], and it helps to relieve the pain. People do come in [to the Salt River Fitness Center] asking about [foam rollers], and we help them and provide the basics,” said Seepie.
See photo gallery for basic foam-rolling exercises.