Foam rollers are effective for increasing flexibility, but when are they best utilized? The answer to that question isn’t necessarily limited to when it’s most beneficial to use a foam roller. It’s rather a matter of how. According to National Academy of Sports Medicine CEO and founder Mike Clark (h/t OutsideOnline.com), practically everyone fails to properly utilize foam rollers. Correctly using a foam roller before strenuous exercise can decrease your chances of contracting an injury and improve your workout.
Tension release from problem areas
Your basic instinct to gently roll back-and-forth consistently won’t yield optimal results from using a foam roller. Instead, it’s important to apply pressure on problem areas of your body, such as the hip flexors and glutes. Hip flexor strain is a common outcome of daily physical activity, like sitting upright in a desk chair during an eight-hour workday. It’s also a primary point of concentration for mild lower back pain. You can effectively release the tension in your hip flexors, and other problem areas of the body, by rolling your hips on a foam roller for approximately one to two minutes before a workout.
Optimized range of motion
Stretching is widely conceived as an important element of pre-workout activity, but conventional stretching technique does not directly target muscle receptors and tendons. While it’s entirely possible to warm-up each major muscle group through stretching, using a foam roller can help prepare tendons for strenuous activity and also decrease muscular-tension imbalances. Foam rolling can help increase your body’s overall range of motion and enable you to perform explosive weightlifting exercises with greater authority.
Decreased muscular imbalance
Muscular imbalances refer to certain muscle groups within the body being stronger than others. Over time, it’s likely that you’ve noticed peculiar variations in how your body reacts to strenuous exercise. For example, it’s possible you’ve realized your quadriceps are able to handle more weight in the squat rack than your chest can tolerate on the bench press. While this is relatively common among active gym-goers, it could be an outcome of muscular imbalance. Clark emphasizes that foam rollers activate the Golgi tendon organ, which effectively allows conventional stretching to activate muscle receptors. This process helps create balance within the body, thus enabling you to exercise at optimal capacity.
Increased strength and flexibility
According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a dynamic warm-up model will increase strength in the quadriceps and flexibility in the hamstrings. A conventional warm-up period typically consists of moderate stretching activity and low-intensity exercise. However, combining the use of a foam roller with a regular stretching regimen, and performing five minutes of moderately intense cardiovascular activity, such as spinning, has the potential to enhance your body’s ability to execute strenuous exercises. Although research regarding foam rolling and its correlative effect on exercise remains limited, experts like Clark tout foam rollers ability to stimulate muscle receptors, which aid the process of lengthening muscle fibers.
Enhanced effectiveness of stretching
The ultimate benefit of utilizing a foam roller both before and after a workout is that it enhances the effectiveness of conventional stretching methods. Foam rollers apply deep pressure to problem areas, especially those in the pelvic region. This consequently activates muscle receptors, which increases your overall range of motion, decreases muscular imbalance, and helps maximize your strength and flexibility.
John Shea is a team sports fanatic and fitness aficionado. His work has been published across a wide platform of online audiences in the realm of health and fitness. His passion for fitness is exemplified in his writing, as he aims to help readers improve their overall well-being.