Just Roll With It

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By: Kevin Rail

By: Kevin Rail

Certified Fitness Coach with a Bachelor Science in Sports Fitness and Wellness.

When your body is not feeling quite right due to soreness, you can actually just take the age old advice… just roll with it. But in this case it literally, involves rolling. 

What is This Thing? 

You will often here this “thing” referred to as a foam roll, foam roller, bio-foam roller or just roller. They are all really the same thing, and they consist of a circular tube-shaped apparatus made of durable foam. 

They come in a few different lengths, which make them easy for transport and store, and you can even find half rolls that look like they’ve been cut into two equal parts lengthwise. Now that you have a better idea of what they are, it is time to learn why you want to use one. 

Greasing the Groove

Before you start a workout, your muscles are usually tight and constricted. Depending on factors like your diet and the extent of your last workout, this can vary in degree. A common usage of a foam roller is to lay out on it before your workouts to target specific areas that you are about to work. 

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, this technique is known as self-myofascial release, or SMF for short. 

For example, a common thing to do is sit on it and “roll” your glutes and hamstrings before a lower body workout. This method simply releases small knot-like clusters of tissue in your muscles called adhesions. 

By doing this, you reduce the risk of injury and afford yourself the ability to make better progress with your exercises. You will also notice that you can move a lot better. In a world where range of motion is key, this means a lot to your overall workout performance. 

Post-workout Pleasure

A lot of people like to slug down smoothies and protein shakes the second they finish their last set of 10 reps. That’s a good strategy to expedite recovery, but you shouldn’t overlook stretching too. 

The foam roller comes in really handy here as you can sprawl across it in multiple directions to give yourself a little love that will jumpstart the healing process. Much like in the beginning of your workout, you can also deploy the same type of rolling system.

But now, it is all but guaranteed that you have collected a fair share of knots from your leg presses, lunges and lat pulldowns. But this is where the foam roller comes to the table. 

According to a study done through the National Institutes of Health, subjects who foam rolled for 20 minutes after intense leg exercise, improved quadriceps tenderness by a moderate to large amount in the days following. 

Even by rolling for a mere few minutes, you will be able to release adhesions and speed up your recovery process. 

The Right and Wrong way to use a Roller

Far too often you will see people in a gym, sitting on their butt with their legs extended out straight and a foam roll under one of them. They will start rocking back and forth in a rhythmic pattern for several minutes in a row. 

Although they might think they are doing themselves justice, they really aren’t. The correct way to use the foam roll is by moving slowly and stop when you feel a spot of tension or pain. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then keep moving down the length of a muscle, following this same pattern. 

That will give you adequate time to release the knots, which is one of the main purposes of the foam roll in the first place. 

Once you get through an entire muscle, go after another, and then just keep trucking until you’ve got all the areas you want to target. 

Bringing it Home

Now that you know what a foam roll is and how to properly use it, the only thing left to do is use it! Aside from hopping on and off at the gym, you can get one for home use and plop down on it while you are watching your favorite sitcom at night. 

All it takes is a mere 5 minutes a day out of your schedule and you will be able to recover faster than you ever thought possible. 

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