Most people have seen a foam roller at the gym.
But how many people actually know how to use them and what do they actually do?
It embarrasses me to say it, but when I started working in the gym I would purposely avoid going near or even talking about a foam roller.
I think a lot of trainers in gyms throughout the country were the same.
I didn’t know what it was for, it mainly gathered dust in the corner of the room and every now and again someone would use it incorrectly.
When they did use it, I would watch in awe and think to myself ‘Might be a good idea to learn about that one day’.
Anyway I ignored myself for ages and ran away from my problems like a mature man until one day it was quiet and I thought:
Today is the day
I sat on it, did a few awkward rolls on my hamstrings and then ran off before anyone could see me.
‘Not doing that again mate’.
More recently I completed my Strength and Conditioning Course where I learnt about the art of olympic lifting, programming for athletes and the emphasis of recovery.
You might think footballers spend a lot of time exercising and training, but surprisingly enough they aren’t super human.
They need rests in-between games, (sometimes 3 games in a week) so they can perform at an optimal level for as long as possible.
A lot of emphasis is therefore put into active recovery and preparation for the next game, rather than trying to get fitter and stronger in-between games once the season has began.
Of course there a lot of different ways to recover effectively and in this article I want to cover foam rolling. That is why you clicked after all.
Simple, effective, cheap and easy to implement into a training schedule.
With the increased number of people favouring outdoor exercise such as running due to the pandemic, there will also be an increased amount of lower body fatigue.
You run enough, you get fitter.
But you also use a lot of muscle power to run.
This causes micro tears in your muscles which then lead to DOMS AKA ‘My legs are on fire’.
What Is Foam Rolling?
“Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique. It can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation, and increase your joint range of motion.” – Self massage basically.
Most people know the benefits of massage, so foam rolling is just a much cheaper alternative, but mainly targeted for the lower body.
You can target calves, hamstrings and quads by just rolling it up and down for 5 minutes.
How To Foam Roll?
Lie on the floor and place the foam roller underneath the desired body part you wish to target e.g. calf
Simply, use your bodyweight to roll up and down over the roller from the top of your calf to the bottom.
Your body should be raised off the floor so only your hands and your foot at the bottom of the calf being rolled, are touching the floor throughout.
Roll SLOWLY back and forth applying enough pressure to feel a slight discomfort as if someone is pressing down on your calf.
You should spend around 1-2 minutes on each body part you wish to foam roll.
The same rules applies when using on your hamstrings.
For quadriceps, roll over onto your front and repeat the process. The leg not being used will need to come out to the side for balance so you will be in a Spider-man type position.
I have linked a foam roller here which is pretty much the same as mine and comes with a booklet explaining how to use it effectively.
When To Foam Roll?
General advice and studies have shown that to aim between 15-20 minutes after completing exercise.
Then 24 hours and 48 hours after exercising.
But not everyone can stick to that kind of schedule.
Personally I just do it 2 or 3 times a week in the morning and maybe a few corresponding evenings on the days I’ve played football or trained legs.
What Does Foam Rolling Actually Do?
From personal experience, I’ve benefitted a lot from using mine mainly with the reduction of soreness and faster recovery inbetween sessions.
It also gives you a better sense of general well-being and looseness.
It makes my legs feel lighter and more flexible again, which gives me more energy and allows me to get on with my day without feeling as tight or sore.
The first time you use a foam roller, it is a strange feeling.
It kind of hurts but it kind of feels good too, like a massage would, but you know it is working.
I compare it to the sensation of a massage because that is all it is.
But you aren’t paying anyone, you are doing it yourself.
Should I Get One?
I have benefited from using mine a lot.
Being someone who is nearly 30 and exercising my whole life, I’ve picked up loads of niggles and injuries.
I suffer with super tight muscles mainly from football and my lack of effort and previous ignorance towards a warm up or cool down.
If you are someone who runs/ran a lot you will be able to relate.
Foam rolling combined with a good lower body stretching routine afterwards can relieve this tightness and just make life more comfortable than anything else.
For how cheap and easy it is, with all the benefits that it brings, is something you should consider.
But if not, there are alternatives and you can benefit from just stretching too.
If you don’t already have one and are interested in purchasing one relatively cheap then you can find them on Amazon.
You can get them quite cheap off Ebay too, but it is always a bit risky as some companies don’t offer returns.
Make sure they do if you purchase one from there. Always check that small print!
Foam Rollers are cheap, easy and beneficial for anyone.
With the latest craze of massage guns they are a much cheaper alternative, if you plan to focus on large body parts particularly in the lower body.
I think every household should have one.
>> For more information, blogs, training programmes and training tips visit my website Tjhealthandfitness.com