Did you know that there is an effective, intense exercise routine that you can try from the comfort of home with minimal equipment needed? This exercise is called foam rolling and all you need to practice it is a foam cylinder and a few square feet of floor space.
Foam rolling has caught on with fitness enthusiasts everywhere as it provides a fantastic massage for your muscles, helping to relieve tension and reducing the probability of experiencing joint pains. The theory of this exercise is very simple – you just place the roller on the ground and roll over it with the muscle that you want to work on.
Be advised, though, that foam rolling will be sore at first. If you are only starting out with this type of exercise, make sure to buy a white foam roller, as these are the softest and therefore place the least amount of pressure on your muscles. Only experienced gum junkies or competitive athletes will use black rollers, as these are quite firm and penetrate the muscles deeply.
If you’re looking for the best balance between an intense workout and a gentle massage, a colored roller (which will most likely be green, blue or yellow) offers a deep massage while still allowing for a soft cushion. Anyone who undertakes Pilates classes would probably have seen these before and may well have experience with using them.
Why would someone voluntarily undertake an exercise that they know is going to hurt, you might ask?
Foam rolling provides numerous benefits if you can withstand the initial pain. It is excellent for eliminating niggling muscle aches and correcting muscular imbalances. Once the muscles are freed and loosened, you will have greater energy for the remainder of the day and, over time, it will help greatly with your mobility and flexibility. If you go to the gym regularly, even a few minutes of foam rolling will reduce the chances of incurring an unfortunate yet preventable injury during your workouts.
Foam rolling is certainly a beneficial exercise, but it’s one that needs to be done carefully so that you don’t accidentally do more harm than good to your muscles. For starters, you should never roll on muscles that feel sore from earlier exercise. If rolling on your back, keep it to the upper back area and never roll directly onto your spine or lower back. Roll gently on the areas where you’re working and hold it on tight spots for 30-40 seconds but don’t stay on any one area for any more than two minutes in case you hit a nerve or damage tissue. Breathe naturally and relax your muscles throughout the exercise, as holding your breath or keeping muscles tense will make it very hard to hit the trigger points that you’ll want to release.
You can learn more about foam rolling in the infographic below prepared by Bracken Foam Fabricators, which includes a brief guide to some of the most common foam roller exercises.