You know those cylindrical things kept in the corner of your gym’s stretch or free-weight area? Those are foam rollers.
Most health clubs stock these therapeutic fitness tools now that the trend has reached wide popularity, and for good cause: foam rolling rocks. It’s a form of self-myofascial release or, to put simply, a self-massage that can improve flexibility, boost circulation, reduce soreness, increase range of motion, and remove lactic acid to speed recovery. It can be done before or after a workout, or even at home on off-days. Plus, rolling costs a fraction of what sports therapist or deep-tissue masseuse will charge you for a similar experience.
“All men can benefit from foam rolling, whether you’re a weekend warrior or an ultra-marathoner. Stress, diet, and your daily life are also reasons why foam rolling is for everyone. Starting tomorrow with just a couple of minutes of building the habit and routine will be beneficial for you,” says Bill Elkins, athletic director at New York Health & Racquet Club.
Elkins started foam rolling after increasing the intensity and duration of his training. His massage therapist and coach suggested he add foam rolling to the mix to help with tight calves and quads. So for all you dudes who are getting summer bod- ready and putting in more sessions at the gym, this could speed your progress.
You’re probably thinking, “Heck yeah, sounds great, but what exactly do I do on the roller?” Here is Foam Rolling 101 courtesy Elkins’ personal training expertise:
Foam Rolling 101
Start: “Slow. Your first attempts might be a little shocking and painful. Spend just a minute or two on each muscle group and try to do this in the evening or post-run. Work this into a nightly ritual of stretching and foam rolling for 15 minutes. That is more than enough time to cover all your bases.”
When: “The time to use a foam roller would be before and after you exercise,” Elkins says. “Using the foam roller before a workout or run can help warm up your muscles, loosen up, and generally prepare you for your activity of choice. After your workout, this is a great way to alleviate soreness and speed up recovery time.”
Don’t: “Think more is better. Foam rolling too aggressively or too frequently can lead to injuries,” Elkins cautions. “Foam rolling should be something that you do in addition to stretching, yoga, drinking enough water, and eating clean.”
Payoff: “Increased mobility, range of motion, reduced soreness, increased blood flow, and enhanced performance just to name a few.”
Calves: With the roller placed under the calf, keep your toe pointed toward the sky and roll from the ankle to below the knee. Roll for 30-60 seconds and apply pressure as is comfortable. Stack your legs to add pressure.
Quadriceps: While lying on the stomach, place the roller under your upper thigh and roll down to the top of the knee and back. Roll for 30-60 seconds and apply pressure as is comfortable. Stack the legs to add pressure.
IT Band: While lying on your side, place the roller under the hip. Roll down to your knee then back up to the hip. Place your hands on the ground for balance. Roll for 30-60 seconds and apply pressure as is comfortable. Stack your legs to add pressure.
Get the Gear
Equipment: “Selecting a foam roller can be a little daunting. You will find short, long, soft, hard, and even vibrating ones. While you may have all of these variations the purpose of the foam roller is the same. Keeping in mind this is a form of self-massage let’s take a look at this in terms of a massage therapist. The massage therapist’s hands are basically like all the types of foam rollers at once. The therapist may need to use their hand (short foam roller) to get deep into a smaller muscle group. On the other hand, when working on your back or quad they may need to use their forearm (long foam roller like Trigger Point’s Grid 2.0) to cover these larger areas.
Hard v. soft: “We have all been to those massage therapists that make us want to jump off the table and run for the door. A good therapist is better at controlling the intensity of the massage. You may have a really delicate or sore area that needs a lighter touch (soft foam roller) or you might have a smaller frame that doesn’t require as much pressure. On the flip side, you might be someone who likes the pressure and really wants the therapist to get deep into your muscles. This would require a more aggressive (hard foam roller) massage.”
Smooth v. bumpy: “Using one with ridges (like this Rollga Dynasty) will help to target those trigger points and break up the blockage while the smoother rollers are great at covering a wider area. The newest products on the market are the vibrating foam rollers. We have been using back massagers for years and now the same principles are being applied to the foam rollers. The vibration is used to help break up the troubled area and release tension.”
18-inch Soft Foam Roller – $35
18-inch High-Density Foam – $13
22-inch Rumble Roller, Textured, Firm Roller – $55