Gethin Evans takes us through the use of foam rollers!
Using a foam roller is a form of self-myofascial release, which is a soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle, immobility and pain.
How does self-myofascial release work?
Placing pressure directly on muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy, or self-myofascial release techniques relax tension in the soft tissue. Decreases in soft tissue tension will help break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall function.
Benefits of using foam rollers:
- Reduce arterial stiffness (a risk factor for cardiovascular events)
- Improve tissue flexibility
- Reduce muscle spasm
- Improve circulation
- Increase recovery
- Increases the overall range of motions
- Relaxes tight muscles which can reduce the chance of injury
I’ve been using a foam roller for over a year now, I started when I was doing the Russian squatting programme Smolov (http://stronglifts.com/how-to-add-100-pounds-to-your-squat-smolov/), which is an intensively hard workout on the legs. Someone brought the green foam roller (pictured) into the gym so I thought I would give it a go. I’ve not looked back since, I love foam rollers and am completely sold on their benefits.
Which foam roller?
I found the green foam roller to be overly soft for my needs, as it didn’t provide enough pressure on the muscles and wasn’t very durable. So I moved onto the black foam roller (pictured), which is a hollow cylinder of plastic. This proved very rigid, durable and provided more pressure. But I found it hard to really get into areas such as the hip flexors and the gleuts. Which is why I started to use the ball (pictured), very effective at getting into the hard to reach and problem places, but at times very painfull and intense, I also found it only covered a small area of muscle at one time.
Which brings us to the aptly named More Mile ‘Beast Foam Roller’, the orange one pictured. It is once again a plastic cylinder, with raised blocks all the way round. I really like this foam roller, it provides amazing pressure, it’s solid and very durable. The raised blocks give you the best of both worlds, the intense pressure of the ball and the ability to work on the hard to reach places, as well as covering a larger muscle area, similar to the black foam roller. So in summary perfect for my needs!
BUT having said all that, this foam roller is not for the faint hearted, or for someone who has never used a foam roller before. It is very intense, and can be quite painful. Therefore I would not recommend this as a first foam roller, I would go for a model similar to the black roller, and then possibly build up to the orange Beast.
How to use?
Anything from 5 to 10 minutes use would do wonders. I’ve included a few pictures (below) of how I use them, and which areas they can target. There are plenty more examples and videos online if looking for a further guide.
As foam rollers go in general, I believe everyone would benefit from introducing them into their warm ups / stretching routines, and also as a form of warm down. In order to prevent injury, increase flexibility, and aid recovery. It also just feels amazing, and is a cheap alternative to paying for a massage! So get a foam roller, and keep rolling!