by Joanne Stacey in Training Tips, image by weskriesel

What is a Foam Roller and Why is it Good for You?

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Foam rollers are gaining popularity as a tool to make exercise more challenging and to help relieve pain. As we get older, our joints start to lose their elasticity and connective tissue, and it’s harder to do the things we used to do. Many people who have muscle stiffness opt for a massage, but with a foam roller, you can do it yourself.

The roller works the same way as a massage, by breaking up the fibrous tissue that has built up so you have better circulation flow, which in turn, reduces soreness. If you use the foam roller after your workout three times a week, you will have less muscle tension and pain. As an added bonus, when you hold your position on the foam roller, which is an unstable surface, you’re contracting your muscles so you’re getting a strength and stability workout at the same time.

Here are some workouts and stretches to try:

  • Instead of doing crunches on the floor, use the foam roller. Sit on the end of the roller and put your feet on the floor. Extend your arms to your sides and slowly roll down, feeling each vertebrae as it touches the roller, then roll yourself back up. Do three sets of 10.
  • Lie on your back on the roller, feet flat on the floor. Hold your arms to your side and lift your right knee to your chest. Hold the position for three seconds then lower your leg. Repeat 9 more times before switching to your left leg. As your abdominal muscles get stronger, you can hold the position longer.
  • Lie on your back on the roller and lift your legs so they are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Hold your arms out to your sides and slowly lower your right foot to the floor until your toes touch then raise your leg back up to the starting position. Repeat this 9 more times before switching legs.
  • Stand on the roller, feet hip width apart. Bend your knees a little and squeeze your glutes. Hold the position for 60 seconds, keeping your abdominals pulled in. If you need help with stability, do this exercise near a wall so you can reach out your hand to balance.
  • Stand with the foam roller about a foot behind you. Put the toes of your right foot on the roller and slowly do a lunge, allowing the roller to roll to your shin. Pull yourself back up to your starting position and repeat 9 more times before switching legs.
  • Sit in the middle of the roller with your knees bent. Put your arms on the floor behind you. Lift your right leg and cross it over so it is on your left knee. Drop your right leg toward the floor and roll the foam roller down your right outer thigh and glutes then roll back up. Turn your body and roll down your left outer thigh and glutes then roll back up. Do this 4 more times, then cross your left leg over your right knee and repeat the exercise 5 times.

To help with muscle soreness after a workout, position the sore part of your body over the foam roller and lower yourself down. Hold the sore spot on the roller for 10 seconds then slowly roll that muscle for no more than 20 seconds. Remember that the foam roller is meant for the muscles and connective tissue around the joints, and not for the joint itself, so don’t put the joint directly on the roller. Also remember that the foam roller isn’t a substitute for a doctor when you’re injured. If your muscles or tissues are inflamed, don’t use the foam roller or you could cause more damage to your body.

If you’re interested in adding another tool to your workout arsenal, the foam roller may be what you’re looking for.
Not only will it help strengthen your muscles, it can also improve your stability and provide muscle relief.

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