Meet your new masseuse…the foam roller
Many gyms have foam rollers these days – but do you actually know what to do with them?
Currently the darling of the fitness world and the cure-all for many different aches, there’s no doubt that regularly using a foam roller offers many of the same benefits as a sports massage, including reduced inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress, as well as improved circulation and improved flexibility.
Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points and is one of the best ways to eliminate and prevent muscle knots.
What’s the point?
Foam rolling (deep compression) smooths and lengthens your muscles, and breaks up adhesions and scar tissue. Imagine you are tenderizing your own muscles. They should be soft and supple like a baby’s muscles. However, if our muscles are not taken care of properly we can experience loss of flexibility, adhesions, and painful movement. Anyone who exercises has been there at some point.
Does it hurt?
I’d be lying if I said no! It can be very uncomfortable when you start out and your muscles are very tight. But it’s short term pain for happier muscles and better recovery.
What should I do?
I have to say, just to get started, it can be useful to get some expert help. If you have a good gym instructor, ask for some pointers and a lesson in what to do. If you are dealing with specific tightness or injuries, I would book a session with a physiotherapist who can show you exactly which exercises to do (and most definitely what not to do).
What type of foam roller should I buy?
It all depends on what you want to achieve. If you’re doing foam rolling for rehab, a basic roller will do the job. A more hardcore athlete would get great value in a more expensive roller like the Grid.
EPE foam rollers: Designed to last around 12 weeks for rehabilitation
EPP: Designed to last for around 4-6 months, for long term rehab/short term prehab (stretching)
EVA: Designed to last for around 18 months for prehab
Ribbed: Designed to last between 12 and 20 weeks for Trigger Point focus
Hollow core: Designed to last for 18 months to 5 years for long term prehab. (Grid and Go Fit)
Filled hollow core (rumble and Y) designed to last 3 to 5 years.
Lengths and Prices
EPE comes in 45cm and 90cm lengths (retails for €25 and €30).
EPP comes in 45cm and 90cm lengths (retails for €30 and €35).
EVA comes in 30cm (dimpled), 45cm and 90cm lengths (retails for €20, €30 and €50)
Ribbed comes in 45cm and 90cm lengths (€30 and €40)
Hollow core comes in 33cm and 45cm (retails between €40 and €70)
Some things you should not do…
Never roll a joint or bone. Take care when rolling your lower back, all the spinal muscles will contract and protect the spine. It can be painful…
To target these muscles, physios recommend using tennis balls. If you are having issues with your neck, visit a medical professional, as these areas can be more sensitive and require more advanced attention.
Don’t roll too fast. While it might feel great to roll back and forth on a foam roller quickly, you’re not actually eliminating any adhesions that way. You need to give your brain enough time to tell your muscles to relax.
Please note that if you suspect an acute tear in your muscle please DO NOT foam roll over the injured area and always avoid rolling over bone/superficial nerve tissue. Please check with the experts if in doubt…
Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises
1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60 seconds.
2. Spend extra time directly over the knot or trigger point itself.
3. Roll the injured area two to three times a day. For prevention of injuries, two to three times a week is recommended.
4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
5. Always stretch the area following foam rolling.