Exercise with Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are instrumental in stretching. This is one of their main purposes. As a way to gently stretch various muscles of the body after exercise, people have used exercise balls, mats and other equipment. The problem here is that balls will roll and mats are quite flat. It can be hard to stabilize the body and get a good stretch at the same time.

Now let’s take a look at foam rollers. They are long and cylindrical which makes them a good support for stretching. The foam is high density so it will not easily crush under your weight. They come in many sizes so if you think you will need one to support more weight, choose a larger one. They look like colorful logs but are actually pliable if you need them to be.

One way to get a good stretch is to use them for stability. Here’s an example. To stretch your back, lay across the roller. It holds you in place while you lift your hands over your head or move your legs out farther to get a deeper stretch in the muscle.

Foam rollers are also coming into play for deep massage of muscles and sore spots. Many times we develop adhesions between muscles and the underlying fascia. Like other adhesions, these are scar tissue that results from some injury or pain.

In the case of muscles and fascia, one cause is likely exercising or participating in sports without properly stretching and warming up first. Also, hitting the ground running so to speak after a long sedentary period can lead to the muscle and fascia sticking together and causing pain and limited range of motion for you.

Foam rollers, much like a deep tissue or sports massage, can break the connection between these two tissues. Because a foam roller is firm, you can lay any soft tissue area across it and roll back and forth to create the tension to separate them. Be aware that if it is a particularly painful area, it can hurt to use the foam roller. It will go away after a few sessions, however.

One example is the hamstrings. Sitting with both on the foam roller and heels on the floor, roll from your center to the knees in a slow motion. As you roll, apply more of your body weight to the roller to create pressure.

This same technique works with all soft tissue areas. Resist rolling bony areas over the roller as it will be uncomfortable and perhaps hurt you.

Are you dealing with a sports injury or are you a victim of “too much too soon?” A foam roller may be what you need to get back on track.