Sore muscles and exercise pretty much go hand-in-hand–so long as you’re doing it right, that is. After all, the pain you feel the next morning–or even that same night–after a good workout comes from micro-tears in your muscles. While that sounds like an injury waiting to happen, it’s just the body’s way of breaking down tissue so that it can be repair itself in a stronger way.
That might be all well and good in theory, but you’re still left limping up stairs and wincing when you sit. A good massage is what you need to recover quickly, but if you’re working out regularly that could get expensive fast. Instead, swap in a foam roller as your masseuse, and for a lot less money and time you’ll get some much “kneaded” relief.
If you’re unfamiliar, foam rollers are typically long and cylinder-shaped with a smooth surface (unless you go for a trigger-point variety which has ridges) and made up of a high-density material that won’t lose it’s shape. If you’re unfamiliar, foam rollers are typically long and cylinder-shaped with a smooth surface (unless you go for a trigger-point variety which has ridges). They are made up of a high-density material that won’t lose it’s shape. For anywhere from $20 on up, you can purchase a roller to help increase blood flow and circulation to soft muscles, which aids in recovery. Keep one in your home to use when stretching before or after any exercise, or if you’re not ready to buy, try one at the gym. Once you have access to this basic piece of equipment, with the following tips you’re ready to roll.
Lower Body Loosener: Just about every muscle in your lower body can benefit from a good roll, but it’s all about intensity. Whether you lay stomach down a rock with the roller beneath your quads, move atop the roller with the aim of getting your glutes and quads, or keep just your calves circulating the roller, the idea is to make your body weight to do the work. Those muscles are sore, so expect some discomfort as you dig in. Think of it like a deep-tissue massage.
Neck and Back Beware: Your back can take a beating during workouts, so it’s natural to want to loosen up tight muscles. When using the foam roller, focus your rolling on the upper back, lats (the side muscles below your armpits), and your traps. Avoid your lower back unless given special instruction by a medical expert since there are lots of vulnerable organs and sensitive spots in this area. The same goes for your neck. The size of the roller in comparison with the neck do not pair well. Instead, try tennis or lacrosse balls against a wall to ease tightness.
Chest Opener: If you work on a computer more often than not, the muscles across your chest can tend to tighten and shorten. Not only does this mess with your posture, but it can also be painful over time. Before doing exercises such as push ups, pull ups, and bench presses, stretch out your chest by laying on the foam roller, so that it is in line with your spine. Make sure the base of your head is supported, and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor to keep from moving. Open your arms out wide to the side with your palms up. You can stay in this position or bend your arms into goal post positions to increase the stretch. Play around with positioning to find the stretch that is best for you.
Awesome for Abs: In addition to stretching, use a foam roller for all kinds of core work. Do crunches from the same position used in the chest opener stretch. You’ll work your abs during the sit-up and in keeping the roller stabilized. Or from a plank position with the tops of your feet on the roller, bring your knees into your chest before rolling back to the start position. There are lots of variations; find a few that are right for your next routine.
Stretching is important to good muscle health and quick recovery so that you can keep up your workout routine. A foam roller is not only a fun way to add in stretching, but also a very efficient and effective method. Give it a roll, and your muscles will thank you for it!
What is your favorite way to use the foam roller? Tell us in the comments!