There are a variety of studies that show foam rolling can help with connective tissue regeneration and muscle recovery. If you’re curious about how you can get started with foam rolling, here’s everything you should know about the practice and how to do it correctly.
Foam Roller Overview
Before diving into what a foam roller can do, it’s important to understand what a foam roller is and what it is not. A foam roller is a round, elongated tool that is made with high-density foam. Some foam rollers have different surface textures and knobs designed to apply additional pressure to certain points of the body. The purpose of a foam roller is to provide you with a self-administered deep-tissue massage (also known as myofascial release).
You cannot take a pool noodle or some other type of low-density foam and use it as a foam roller to save money. You simply won’t get the same results from low-density foam as you will from the high-density foam used in commercially available foam rollers.
Choosing the Right Roller
When it comes to selecting the right foam roller for your needs, there are a few factors to take into consideration:
Though all foam rollers have a higher density than a pool noodle, they do offer various density options. If you’re getting ready to use a foam roller for the first time, you might want to choose one that’s a bit softer than some of the denser options. Foam rolling can be pretty intense when you’re starting out, and a softer roller can help you get the appropriate pressure for your needs without experiencing too much pain or bruising. White foam rollers are typically less dense.
Once you become more familiar with foam rolling and your body can handle the intensity of a harder surface, consider moving up to a higher-density roller. Blue and red rollers are usually medium-density, while black rollers are typically the densest. In addition to getting a more effective deep-tissue massage from dense rollers, you’ll also notice that they hold their shape better than softer rollers.
Once you get the right roller density, it’s time to decide what size foam roller to buy. Foam rollers differ in length as well as diameter. Generally, longer rollers with a diameter between five and six inches are best for first-time rollers. They’re easier to use and are a comfortable height. When you’re ready for a deeper massage, consider using a roller with a diameter between three and four inches. This size will give you a more targeted massage experience.
Finally, you’ll need to choose between a smooth or ridged surface texture when selecting a foam roller. Smooth rollers provide even pressure across the body part being rolled. Textured rollers with ridges and knobs can help work out knots in specific areas. They’re designed to mimic the skilled hands of a massage therapist and provide a more intense deep-tissue massage than smooth rollers.
How To Use a Foam Roller
Once you get the perfect foam roller for your needs, you’ll need to know how to use it correctly. Here’s a brief step-by-step guide.
Relax your muscles. Don’t tense up the muscles you’re rolling.
Position the area you want to massage on the roller (such as your thigh). Using your arms to hold your body up in a comfortable position, gently roll the target area of your body across the foam roller (slow and steady is best).
Roll the same area back and forth a few times until you feel some release of tension.
Only use a foam roller once per day to avoid excessive soreness and pain.
There you have it! Follow this simple guide for choosing and using your first foam roller and get ready to loosen up your muscles and speed up your recovery after workouts.