Foam Rolling 101

The benefits, different kinds, and how and when to use one

From the LifeMinute.TV Team

May 11, 2023

Have you spotted that soft cylinder-shaped object at the gym and wondered what it was for? It’s a foam roller, a self-myofascial release (SMR). Used by many athletes, it decreases tissue tension, lengthens muscles, and loosens restricted fascia, which is a sheet of fibrous connective tissue made of collagen that surrounds muscles. May 11th is National Foam Rolling Day, so here are five ways using one can help you out.

Relieve Soreness
The massage offered by foam rolling can help alleviate muscle pain and tension caused by adhesions that can form between your muscle and your fascia. One small study of eight male participants in the Journal of Athletic Training found evidence that foam rolling after exercise may help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. 

Reduce Inflammation
Applying foam rolling after muscle damage has benefits such as an increase in anti-inflammatory proteins and a reduction of pro-inflammatory proteins. Foam rolling can also stimulate the lymphatic system and help to reduce fluid retention.

Speed Up Recovery Time
An increase in anti-inflammatory proteins can help you get back to working out again. While inflammation is part of the recovery process, exceedingly high inflammatory response to muscle damage can extend recovery time by preventing the repair of damaged tissue.

Improve Circulation
A study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that arterial blood flow was significantly higher immediately after foam rolling than at baseline and was still elevated 30 minutes later. Increasing blood flow through muscles following exercise can help quickly eliminate fatigue symptoms.

Increase Flexibility
Foam rolling gives you all the same benefits of stretching. By loosening muscles, you create smoother movements and a broader range of motion.

Areas to foam roll: Stick to rolling out your muscles, such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, traps, and lats, but avoid your joints and ligaments.

How to foam roll: Find a flat surface and place your targeted muscle area on the foam roller. Slowly roll forward and backward for 30 seconds.

When to foam roll: You can foam roll before a workout to warm up at stretch muscles and after to aid in recovery.

Types of foam rollers: Some foam rollers are smooth, which is best for beginners and those new to foam rolling, while the spikey or bumpy textured rollers are more intense to work, deeper into muscles, and work out knots and tension.

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