Foam Roller Benefits
You’ve probably seen people in the gym using a foam roller before or after their workouts. Many wonder what foam rollers are all about, and why they’ve exploded in popularity in recent years. You may actually use a foam roller yourself, but just want to know what the benefits are.
Types of Benefits From Using a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are pretty new in the fitness world, so there isn’t a huge library of scientific studies about foam rolling. Though there aren’t enough scientific studies to emphatically prove or disprove the amazing benefits of foam rollers, many people swear by them. The studies that have been conducted though, are very promising. Once there becomes a wider selection of peer reviewed studies, I believe foam rollers will begin see even further widespread use.
There are various benefits that people have discovered through their own experiences with foam rolling. All of these benefits can be categorized into two areas – Fitness and Pain Management.
Health & Fitness Benefits
- Speeds up Recovery Time
- Maintain Strength & Physical Performance
- Increase Core Strength
- Increase Flexibility and Mobility
- Increased Circulation & Decrease Inflammation
- Increased Hydration
Pain Management Benefits
- Reduce Myofascial Trigger Points (General Muscle Pain)
- Reduce Effects of Repetitive Stress (Computer/ Keyboard jobs)
- Reduce Effects of Sitting Too Much (Sedimentary Jobs & Lifestyle)
- Reduce Back Pain
Foam Roller Benefits: Health & Fitness
People commonly use foam rollers for health and fitness benefits. One of the most common reasons of using a foam roller is for self-massage or self-myofascial. Using it this way, a foam roller is used to massage the muscles for quicker recover, increased flexibility and overall performance. People also use foam rollers as an exercise tool for resistance training and stretches.
1. Speeds Muscle Recovery
If you exercise hard enough, you will feel delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) a day or two after your workout. This is just the technical term to describe the muscle soreness after workouts that we’ve all probably experienced after a good workout.
When you do resistance training exercises or workout with heavy weights, it causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers. Your body adapts to the workload by repairing and rebuilding the muscles fibers. That muscle pain is a good muscle pain then! It means you will get stronger after your muscle fibers heal.
Foam rollers can be used to speed up muscle recovery after workouts. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts will use a foam roller before and/or after workouts. Some people also use them between workout days. It all depends on how your body reacts to it and is a personal preference to how you foam roll for muscle recovery.
Traditionally a sports massage therapists would give athletes a massage to treat delayed onset muscle soreness. Massage brings fresh blood into the muscles, which carry nutrients and oxygen with it. This fresh blood flow helps the body naturally heal the micro-torn muscle fibers much quicker.
Foam rollers can essentially do the same thing as a sports massage therapist, without the high bill that comes with a professional sports masseuse. When you use a foam roller, you are essentially massaging the muscles and deep fascia that surrounds the muscles. This brings in fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients. Theres have even been some positive studies that show how foam rollers help decrease the pain associated with DOMS.
2. Maintains Strength & Physical Performance
Foam rolling can maintain strength and physical performance. One way it does that is through its effect on speeding up recovery times. The faster you allow your muscles to heal, the more you’ll be able to go to the gym and workout those muscles again. Though it’s an indirect way to increase strength, it’s still a major factor for anyone who is serious about fitness.
Another way foam rolling can maintain peak physical performance is using it before a workout. The orthodox view of pre-workout routines was to stretch out. New scientific evidence has come out that shows stretching may not be such a good idea before a workout. It has been shown that stretching can cause a decrease in physical performance, so it is not always recommended anymore by fitness professionals.
Many fitness professionals now recommend stretching after a workout. It is sometimes recommended to do warm ups or mimic the movement of your chosen workout. This can help prevent injuries because your body is getting used to the movements.
Fitness professionals now also recommend people use a foam roller before and after workouts. There’s been some scientific studies that show that when people use a foam roller before their workouts, it does not decrease their physical performance like stretching does. Using a foam roller before work out can give similar benefits to stretching, without the loss of physical performance.
3. Increases Core Strength
Core strength allows you to have good form and posture, while exercising. Core strength is important because it stabilizes your body through the workout movements. While this helps prevent injury, it also helps you exercise because you’re able to target the chosen muscle more effectively.
Besides exercising, core strength is also very important in conducting everyday activities. A strong core will help you effectively do all your day-to-day activities with ease and without injury. Anything from carrying groceries to heavy boxes can be much easier with a strong core.
Most people think that your core is just your abdominal muscles, but the core muscles encompass a lot of different muscle groups. The core includes your pelvic and the diaphragm muscles, along with abdominal and back muscles. You need several of these core muscles to work together to stabilize your body in a healthy posture. It is very important to keep a good posture so you don’t develop any imbalances in your gluteus or back muscles. Imbalances or myofascial trigger points in these areas can contribute to back pain or other issues.
Foam rollers can influence your core strength in a couple ways. As you use a foam roller for normal muscle massage and self myofascial release, you are naturally engaging your core muscles to balance. For example as you roll out your back, your feet are planted on the ground. To achieve this, your abdomen and back muscles contract and stabilize your body through the foam rolling movements.
Another way that foam rollers can increase your core strength are by doing different foam roller exercises that target core strength. Besides being used as a self-massge tool, foam rollers are also used as a platform for a variety of different core exercises. It’s great for core work because you have to balance yourself on the foam roller while doing certain core stabilizing or resistance exercises.
4. Increases Flexibility & Mobility
Foam rolling can also increase flexibility and range of motion. Flexibility and mobility are very similar but do have some subtle differences. Flexibility is how much you can lengthen your muscles through movement. For example, if you can touch your toes.
Mobility has more to do with range of motion, strength and coordination through certain movements. For example, someone that has good mobility can go surfing. They can do this without any issues in the range of motion associated with all the movements required for surfing. Someone else can have high flexibility (able to touch their toes), yet lack the mobility, coordination, balance and strength that is required to go surfing.
Foam rolling can increase both flexibility and mobility. The self-myofascial release and massaging action of foam rolling helps keep the muscle healthy through the tone of the muscle and through eliminating myofascial trigger points that may be preventing flexibility and mobility.
Foam rollers can also be used for static stretching. There are many different stretching exercises that can be done with a foam roller. These stretching exercises combined with the traditional massaging techniques of foam rollers can both increase flexibility and mobility.
5. Increase Circulation & Decrease Inflammation
Poor circulation can cause a variety of issues in your body. It can cause you to get fatigued easily, cold hands and feet, and it can cause aches and pains in your body. When you have good circulation it’s easier for your body to bring in fresh blood and oxygen into muscles that are damaged or tents.
Foam rollers encourage better circulation because the pressure and massaging action of a foam roller introduces fresh blood to areas of the body that need it. It also flushes away lactic acid from the muscles. Using a foam roller can also increase the circulation of lymph fluid which help eliminate waste from the muscles and organs of the body. Increased circulation improves physical performance and bodily function.
6. Increase Hydration
Some fitness professionals say foam rolling can increase hydration through your body. What they are talking about is the muscle fascia. Muscle fascia are deep fascia is like a fibrous web that surrounds our muscle tissues. Is the biological fabric that keeps our muscles and organs intact. Through a sedentary lifestyle, and sitting too much the fascia can become stiff and dehydrated.
Foam rolling helps need and massage the muscles and the fascia surrounding the muscle. When this happens it allows your muscle fascia to become more healthy and hydrated. It is also recommended to drink water when you use a foam roller to increase the hydration of your tissues.
Foam Roller Benefits: Pain Management
People also use foam rollers for pain relief and overall muscle health. Similar to athletes using a foam roller to heal their muscles, foam rolling also helps some people with chronic pain recovery. People who do things repetitively, like working on computers for a living, often experience repetitive stress injuries. Foam rolling helps heal myofascial trigger points in the muscles, which can be a contributor to acute or chronic muscle pain.
7. Reduces Myofascial Trigger Points
Myofascial Trigger Points are basically small knots in the muscle that can cause pain to the affected area, along with referred pain to other unrelated areas of the body. For instance, a trigger point in your trapezius muscle can cause referred pain in your neck or tension headaches.
Almost everyone has had trigger points in their muscles at one point in their lives. Trigger points are caused from muscle trauma, such as pulling a muscle or from repetitive stress injuries. Many people who work at a computer all day often experience repetitive stress of their muscles that lead to painful trigger points.
Trigger points are usually very tender and can range from the size of a pin to a pea, or even bigger. A trigger point is a small section of the muscle fibers that are stuck in a shortened, contracted state. The ends of the trigger point are then lengthened, due to the contracted ball of muscle. These lengthened ends are called a taut band. You will sometimes be able to feel the taut band. They feel like a cord or guitar string and are often mistaken for a tendon.
The reason why foam rolling can hurt so much is because you are rolling over these trigger points in your body. Since trigger points are typically treated by either applying pressure or by massage, a foam roller can be the perfect tool for targeting many trigger points in your body. The massaging action and pressure from a foam roller brings in fresh blood and oxygen into the muscles, allowing the trigger points to heal. Eventually, the trigger points will release their contracted state and the muscles will return back to normal function.
Any foam roller will help relieve trigger points in the muscles, but if you want a foam roller specifically geared towards trigger points, the Trigger Point Foam Roller is a great option.
8. Reduces Effects of Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injury is something that affects many people, many athletes, and many professionals. Anything that requires you to make certain micro-movements all day long or any type of movement continually for long prison time can potentially develop repetitive stress injury.
For example some of that type set the keyboard all day long can develop repetitive stress injuries that caused them risk pain, neck pain, tension headaches and any other symptom that comes with those specific movements. The tennis player might get tennis elbow, a runner might get runners knee, you get the idea. Basically any type of movement that is continual can cause myofascial trigger points in the body its lead to pain.
Foam rollers can add a lot of benefit to people that are having repetitive stress injuries from exercise or their work environment. Foam rolling massages the muscle, deep fascia and myofascial trigger points so that your body can naturally heal the repetitive stress injuries.
The best way to heal repetitive stress injuries is to stop doing those movements or at least switch your movements around so they are different. For example start using the mouse in your left hand if you are usually right-handed. You can also try a different mouse that is more ergonomic to a natural hand position. If you also use a foam roller, this can add tremendous benefit to speed up your repetitive stress injuries see can be pain free.
9. Reduces Pain Associated with Sitting Too Much
The current American lifestyle consists of sitting and leisurely activity. People are now saying that a sedentary lifestyle or sitting too much is the “new smoking”. We may not realize that sitting too much is bad for us because it’s such a common thing in most people’s life. Most people sit down at work all, then when they get, they sit down to watch TV, browse the Internet, etc.
Recent research has come out that shed some light on how bad the sedentary lifestyle is. Sitting all day long is pretty bad for our bodies. Scientists have found that too much sitting can lead to health problems such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
It makes sense that our bodies were not meant to sit this much because our bodies haven’t adapted to the sedentary lifestyle. From an evolutionary standpoint, we have been hunters and gatherers for millions of years. This means we’ve been very active for millions of years, and only recently on the evolutionary timeline have we picked up farming. That has only been within the past 10,000 years or so. And only very very recently have we had desk jobs. This is a new frontier for human beings, and along with a unnatural processed foods, it has also contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Besides the negative health effects of sitting too much, it can also lead to imbalances in muscles which can translate into back pain and other types of pain. When you sit for long prison time this is actually a form of repetitive stress injury, and can lead to trigger points in your body. You may develop neck pain, tension headaches, shoulder pain, back pain or lower back pain.
The best thing you can do to prevent the negative muscular and health-related effects of sitting too much this is simply take breaks throughout the day. Optimally you would take a break every half hour to hour.
You can also use a foam roller to offset the negative effects of sitting too much. Foam rolling can increase the circulation, bringing new blood flow, target the trigger points, and a variety of other things that help heal your muscles. You can even do a quick foam rolling session every time you take breaks throughout the day for optimal effectiveness.
10. Reduces Back Pain
Foam rolling can help reduce and lower the incidence of back and lower back pain. Back pain is one of the most common complaints that people have all across the globe. If you experience back pain, the first thing you want to do is, seek the advice of a healthcare professional like a Doctor or Physical therapists. If they say it is safe for you to use a foam roller, you may experience quite a bit of benefit from using a foam roller.
Foam rollers help people with back and lower back pain. Lower back pain is often caused by myofascial trigger points or muscle tightness in other areas of the body. Tightness in the upper back and in the gluteus muscles can cause referred pain to the lower back. Even trigger points in the stomach can cause pain in the lower back.
This is another reason why back pain is often so hard to diagnose and treat because oftentimes it is due to referred pain from other areas. If you don’t have a health professional that is knowledgeable in the area of myofascial trigger points, it becomes even more challenging to properly diagnose your issue.