Should you be using a foam roller?
The foam roller is a piece of equipment that has been used in the gym for some time now. Some individuals see it as a useful tool, whereas others see no real benefit. I personally believe the foam roller is a very useful piece of equipment and would strongly recommend it to any athlete or gym goer. I tend to use the roller on a weekly basis in the warm up for improving spinal health and mobility. I have trialled training sessions with and without the use of the foam roller before physical exercise and have personally noticed an improvement in gym performance when it has been present.
How to use some simple foam roller mobilization techniques to improve spinal health!
- Cradle the neck and NOT the head
- Inhale as you arch over the roller and count 3 seconds
- Then come out to elevate pressure on the joint gently exhalingÂ
- Repeat this 3 times on each joint then roll up one vertebraeÂ
After a few attempts if you still find a joint that feels stuck you can try some rotational mobilization. Try lying on the spot and turn with your knees from side to side trying to unlock it by using rotation.
Scenario – Improving Thoracic extension:
If the thoracic spine is stuck in flexion then the arm tends to lock up and the range of motion (ROM) suffers. In my opinion, opening that on the foam roller overtime increases the functional ROM of the shoulder significantly. Improving thoracic extension and spinal mobilization in general will have great benefits especially for anyone into weight lifting, swimming, does any throwing movements or anyone that requires the use of their arms over head. For example: Electrician working on overhead cables. If you want to see a perfect example of foam rolling for spine mobilization, check out Paul Chek’s video demonstration.
Lower body rolling:
When I have used the foam roller in the past for the lower body, I have found that not only my flexibility has improved over time but there has also been a release in muscle tension in specific areas. One particular area I have noticed a big improvement is in my overall gym performance as my (ROM) has increased significantly on most exercises. Being able to put the body in certain positions without any impingement that may restrict good form and technique will not only be beneficial in terms of optimal performance but also injury prevention. When it comes to recovery the foam roller can be very useful in ironing out horrible knots and unpleasant muscle tension. Whether you have very sore quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes from a high volume leg session or a runner that’s accumulated miles upon miles then a self-massage therapy session will be a welcome sight. At times, soreness will be inevitable from training, however, if there is an option to reduce and increase the speed in which we recover from sessions then surely using every tool within the box is a sensible option. If you’re keen to find out how to make the most of your foam roller, runnersworld have done a great article about it.
Lower body rolling benefits:
- Increased ROM
- Release in muscle tension
- Injury prevention
- Self massage
- Enhanced recovery
- Improved performance
Benefits of using a foam roller:
The foam roller is not a miracle worker. You cannot expect to roll your problems away after 10 minutes of self massage. In my opinion there will be short and long terms benefits to using the foam roller. Short term you can expect to see improvement in enhanced recovery, release in muscle tension and improved athletic performance. Long term is a continued process over a much longer period of time where you will see further results in the form of increased ROM and flexibility.
- Increase flexibility
- Improved recovery (reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness)
- Improve sporting performance (short-term)
- Increased range of motion
- Spine mobilization