In a previous post I looked at the role the foam roller in my rehabilitation and prevention of iliotibial band syndrome and felt that readers might be interested in further information related to foam rollers. We are in an age of advancing high-tech fitness equipment yet it was a cylindrical piece of tightly packed foam that kept my marathon training on track.
If you have tight muscles like me, a foam roller is an inexpensive and effective way to help cure and prevent injuries.
How does a foam roller work on tight muscles?
Over time of repetitive use, our muscles become tight and develop knots and adhesions that can prohibit performance and lead to injury. Often stretching alone cannot restore the muscle to its optimum length and functionality.
Myofascial massage is a massage technique often used by sports therapists that loosens the fascia (a membrane that surrounds our muscles) and breaks up adhesions that develop over time. This allows the fascia move more freely over the muscles and thus, improve range of motion and flexibility.
Foam rollers act in a similar manner to myofascial massage. Using your own body weight, you glide the targeted muscle or tight muscle group over the foam roller.
- Ideally, your muscles will be warmed up before using the foam roller. I tend to perform my foam roller exercises at the end of my runs or workout sessions.
- Gently and slowly roll the entire muscle back and forth over the foam roller.
- You will hit some spots that are quite tender. Pause when you hit these spots and remain on that spot until the tenderness starts to subside. I found it quite painful on my iliotibial bands when I started, but after a couple of weeks, my muscles adapted quite well.
- Initially, you may not be able to apply much pressure. Do not be discouraged as it will take a few sessions to build up the amount of time rolling over a particular muscle or muscle group.
- Try to avoid rolling directly over bone or joints.
Where to buy a foam roller?
Many gyms will have foam rollers that you can use. I also have one that I use at home. Prices for a foam roller vary from approximately $10 to $50.
Foam rollers come in different densities. For a more intense massage, buy a denser foam roller.
Here are a couple of options for purchasing a foam roller:
1. Foot Forward Training Systems (Canada and U.S.)
Sample Foam Roller Exercises
Foam Roller: IT Band
Foam Roller: Calves
Foam Roller: Thoracic Spine