Knots. Tension. Discomfort. Tight muscles are fun for no one. They can be responsible for headaches, injuries, and amplify feelings of stress. Day by day, as stretching and muscle health is neglected, knots, trigger points, and tightness inevitably take up deep roots. If you have been itching to get those muscles untied, but canít spare the bills to indulge in a series of deep tissue massages, youíre in luck! Foam rollers are one of the most useful, and perhaps most simple, tools to add to your fitness arsenal.
Foam rollers, when used regularly, can increase blood flow and flexibility, decrease muscle soreness, lengthen muscles, and help to melt stress. Athlete or not, consistent rolling can actually help to smooth out muscle imbalances and prevent injury. How could a humble cylinder of foam harbor such benefits? Foam rollers work to break up the tight tissue (fascia) and prevent the development of knots and trigger points, thereby keeping your muscles loose and pliable. It is really quite simple to do. Keeping a muscle as relaxed as you can, lay it over the roller and begin slowly rolling back and forth on the floor, taking time to let yourself sink into any tender spots. Think of it as ironing a wrinkly shirt. The more you go over it with the iron, the smoother it becomes. You may have to linger on a few extra tender spots; those are the knots. If you can grin and bear the initial discomfort, your muscles will come out the other end better for it.
Regular use, before and after a tough workout, can really make a difference. I personally like to focus on the IT band, for knee health. If the outer thigh gets too tight, it can actually pull the kneecap out of place, leading to inflammation and injury. Check out†this video for more details on rolling out the thighs.†Rollers are also great for targeting the calves, gluteals, hamstrings, as well as the entire back. Just be sure not to roll directly over any bony areas, like the knees, ankles, or hip bones.
Eager to pick up a roller? I am partial to these, particularly the pro-rollers. But, in fairness, any size, brand, shape, or density can be useful and you should choose what works best for your body. If you are new to foam rolling, try going for a less dense, smooth roller to start out. There will be some areas of intense discomfort, so starting with a softer roller will ease your body into the process. As you start working out the tension, you can progress to denser rollers to get even deeper into the muscle bellies.
Looking for more specific instruction?†Here are some excellent maneuvers to add in to your routine. If you exercise a lot, have poor posture, or have a lot of tension related stress, foam rolling may be the golden answer to lengthening out overworked muscles and improving your kinetic health.