6 Surprising Foam Roller Benefits

Widely used to relieve tight tissues and muscles, foam roller benefits are much more than just softening your tense muscles. It is a self-myofascial release1 technique extensively accepted by fitness practitioners to get better physical health.

But before you get started, you must know all about foam rolling and its benefits. So, here are all the technicalities you need to know before you add this tool to your workout schedule.

1. What Is Foam Rolling?

A foam roller is a cylindrical, lightweight tube made of compressed, dense foam, used to release muscle tension and increase muscle length for warm-up before a workout or for recovery after an exercise.

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release approach effectively used to reduce muscle soreness2, and inflammation and increase the range of motion. Adding foam rolling in the workout sessions helps prepare your muscles for the intense workout and accelerates their recovery post-workout.

Two theories explain why foam rolling works the way it does. And they are:

  • A foam roller applies pressure on the muscle, which increases tension on the muscle fibers and signals the Golgi Tendon Organ3 (GTO) to allow the fibers and muscle spindles to lengthen.
  • Using a foam roller to roll connective tissue and muscles creates friction between the muscles and the roller, generating heat that causes the tissue to become more flexible and pliable.

2. What Are The Foam Roller Benefits?

Foam roller benefits differ for different people, but the most common foam roller and self-myofascial release benefit found in various people is that it helps the muscle relax and avoid any injury during the workout session.

However, the benefits are much more than that. Foam rolling has always been a loyal friend of gym-goers.

Some of the benefits of foam rolling 4are:

2.1. Helps Reduce the Muscle Pain

Helps reduce the muscle pain
Image by Pixabay on Pexels

One of the foam roller’s benefits is that it softens the tight muscles, reduces inflammation and soreness present in it, and helps relieve the pain in the muscle group.

Scientific evidence has shown that the men who foam rolled for almost twenty minutes right after exercise observed a substantial decrease in the delayed onset muscle soreness, a common symptom observed in athletes and gym-goers 24-48 hours after intense exercise.

The study also showed that the men who foam roll after a workout perform better than those who prefer not to foam roll.

Foam rolling also helps to alleviate localized pain caused by tight tissues. Rolling gently with the foam roller can loosen the tissues and prevent compression, causing pain. It is beneficial in sciatica pain.5

2.2. Makes Blood Circulation Better

Foam rolling
Image by Tyler read on Flickr

Most people have tight IT bands, a band of connective tissues running from the hip to the knee. Tightness in the IT band interrupts the flow of blood.

Foam rolling improves the circulation of blood by preventing the connecting tissues from getting too tight.

Even in ordinary people, usually after an intense workout, connective tissues become tight, and they start to restrict blood flow in the area. Also, limiting the supply of oxygen and nutrients leads to a noticeable loss of feeling in certain tight spots.

This loss of feeling generally happens around the quad muscles and glutes.

One of the benefits is that it releases the tension in the connective tissues and allows the blood vessels to have more space. It has been researched that myofascial release techniques help to improve circulation around some trigger points.

2.3. Improve Flexibility and Range Of Motion

One of the foam rollers’ benefits is that it lowers the risk of developing adhesions. Adhesions occur when collagen binds between the layers of muscle.

A muscle kept in a specific position for extended periods or overused by repeating the same motion consecutively develops collagen. It creates adhesions that restrict the ability of the muscles to move freely—reducing the range of motion for the person.

Regular use of foam roller can prevent the collagen from binding to the muscle tissues. A foam roller loosens the connective tissues, joints, and surrounding muscles, making their movement less constrained and more accessible.

Myofascial release also helps decrease tissue tension, which improves the joint range and range of motion.

In a study, people who foam rolled regularly were more flexible and performed better during the workout than those who didn’t.

2.4. Foam Rolling Prevents Injury

Prevents injury
Image by Tyler Read on Flickr

Getting injured is not unheard of for elite athletes and people involved in intense workouts. Spending hours in a gym or exercising can make your muscles and joints start feeling stiff, and any sudden pressure on the stiff muscles can cause serious injuries.

Sometimes these injuries can be as bad as paralysis. So, it is essential to prevent injuries at any age for physically active people to improve mobility without getting nasty injuries.

One of the foam roller’s benefits is that it helps to prevent injuries by softening stiff muscles.

Foam rolling helps alleviate the pressure from knees and joints, improving their range of motion and reducing the risk of muscles getting strained from any pressure. Foam rolling on the back prevents any spinal injuries.

2.5. Reduce the Appearance of Cellulite

What Exactly is Foam Rolling and Why Should I Roll?

Even though cellulite is not harmful to health, some people don’t like its appearance and want to get rid of it. Foam rolling does not guarantee that the cellulite will permanently disappear, but one foam roller benefit is curbing cellulite temporarily.

Foam rolling smoothens your skin out. It also stretches and loosens the tight fascia to allow the muscles and joints to move freely.

2.6. Foam Rolling Promotes Relaxation

Calf foam roll
Image by Tyler Read on Flickr

One of the foam roller’s benefits is that it breaks the tightness in the muscles making you feel less tense and calmer.

You can self-massage with the foam roller and help reduce your stress. Slowly roll on the foam roller to gently release the tight and sore muscles; it will put you in a state of relaxation.

People who foam roll regularly describe the foam roller benefits as:

  • It helps improve sleep quality
  • It helps reduce the fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Reduces anxiety
  • It helps increase the overall quality of life
  • Evident ease in back pain

So, foam rolling post-workout has both physical and mental health benefits.

3. What Are The Dos And Don’ts Of Foam Rolling?

We know various foam roller benefits, but only knowing the benefits of foam rolling is not enough to add it to your workout schedule. It is advised that before you add a new tool to your daily routine, you should have a piece of explicit knowledge about every aspect related to it. Or you will have to face some serious issues later in time.

Some of the details that you should know about are:

3.1. When Can I Foam Roll?

Although foam rolling is generally after exercise or a workout session, you can also perform it as a standalone practice in your schedule.

Reducing muscle tightness and releasing trigger points is one of the foam roller benefits that always works regardless of if you have done an intense workout before it or not.

If your muscles feel stiff, you can foam roll before a workout, and it helps improve your performance in the exercises. And you can perform it as a standalone in the mornings to get rid of the stiffness you feel in your muscles after waking up.

But if you have done an hour-long workout session, make sure to foam roll. This myofascial release method also works as a sports massage technique.

3.2. How Long Can I Do Foam Rolling?

The longer intervals you do foam rolling for, the better. You can divide it into small intervals of two minutes and then rest for a moment before going again or start rolling in a different place.

You can repeat rolling on the same area after an interval. But if you feel significant pain in rolling, stop and don’t push through it.

Roll gently and not too vigorously, as that will do you more harm than good.

3.3. Which Areas Should I Choose For Foam Rolling?

A physical therapist will advise you to concentrate on rolling on one group of muscles at a time. Take intervals and proceed through it multiple times.

Some of the common areas that you should target are:

Applying pressure on the muscles to reduce muscle tension is one of the foam roller benefits that help in improving mobility. So, these are the common areas you should target to get better results.

3.4. Which Kind of Roller Should I Use?

There are several types of foam rollers, and each one of them has its perks. So depending on your use, you can try which one of the foam rollers you want to add to your workout schedule.

Some of the foam rollers and massage rollers are:

  • Smooth rollers: These foam rollers are best for beginners. They are comparatively soft and the least painful kind. Their benefits are the same as the others, and they provide a more relaxing massage.
  • Textured rollers: These foam rollers have knobs, treads, or ridges in them for deep-tissue foam rolling. These are used by more advanced foam rolling candidates. It is more suitable for working out tight spots.
  • Massage rollers: These are long, thin rollers made up of wood, foam, or plastic. Giving more controlled massages on delicate areas, like calves, is one of these benefits.
  • Massage balls: These are sphere-shaped, small rollers used for a more precise massage. These balls are used to work on localized pain. Like pain in the hip joints, shoulder blades, or outer glute muscles.

3.5. How Do I Start Foam Rolling?

Foam Roller Exercises to Relieve Muscle Pain - Ask Doctor Jo

If you are a beginner, you should start with the basics of foam rolling. Following are some of the tips to get you started.

At first, apply light pressure and then start building it up slowly as you get used to foaming rolling. Foam rolling is painful for some people in the start if they have tight muscles. But if it’s not too excruciating, keep the foam rolling for at least ten seconds.

You can also adjust the pressure by reducing the amount of body weight you put on the foam roller.

Once used to foam rolling, stretch the time from 10 seconds to 30 to 60 seconds.

Also, drink plenty of water after rolling to get proper benefits and help with recovery.

3.6. What Are the Common Mistakes While Foam Rolling?

If you are wondering, “I do foam rolling every day, then why do I still have pain and knots, here and there,” then here are some of the common mistakes you might be making.

  • Rolling directly on the spot of pain: When you feel pain, the human inclination is to massage the area of pain instantly. But don’t do it while foam rolling. Go indirectly. Loosen up the surrounding tissue before you go direct.
  • Rolling too fast: Avoid rolling too fast if you want to get all the benefits. Roll in a slow and concentrated motion. Because going too quickly won’t give your muscles time to adapt to the compression and changes.
  • Rolling on your IT band even if it is sore: Rolling on the IT band is painful on its own, but if you roll on it when it is sore, the pain is excruciating. It can also make the situation worse in some cases.
  • Starting with a firm roller: If you are a beginner, do not go with a super firm roller at the start. Start with the softer ones, and then start applying pressure to get proper benefits.   

So, these are the foam roller benefits and all you need to know about foam rolling.

Foam rolling is an effective way to warm up before and after exercise. It helps reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness, increase blood flow, and improve circulation in athletes or gym-goers.  

Using a foam roller can also help you get rid of the pain if you do it correctly.

Read more from us here.

4. FAQs

4.1. How Should I Use a Foam Roller?

To get the most out of using a foam roller, pick the correct size and density, locate the targeted muscle group, use light to moderate pressure, roll slowly back and forth, spend more time on tight regions, breathe deeply and deliberately, roll various muscle groups, and stretch afterward.

4.2. How Does The Foam Roller Function?

Foam rolling works by delivering pressure to the targeted muscles, fascia, and connective tissues. This pressure aids in releasing the tension, dissolving adhesions, and promoting blood flow, which can assist muscle recovery, flexibility, and discomfort reduction.

4.3. Does Utilizing a Foam Roller Come With Any Risks Or Safety Considerations?

Although foam rolling is generally regarded as safe, it is crucial to avoid bony parts and joints, apply the proper pressure, and stay away from inflamed or wounded areas. If you have any health issues or questions, speak with a medical professional. It’s crucial to follow good techniques and pay attention to your body to avoid overuse or injury.

6 Most Effective Post-Workout Relaxation Techniques
Icy Health
  1. Beardsley, Chris, and Jakob Škarabot. “Effects of self-myofascial release: a systematic review.” Journal of bodywork and movement therapies 19.4 (2015): 747-758. ↩︎
  2. Ranchordas, Mayur K., et al. “Antioxidants for preventing and reducing muscle soreness after exercise: a Cochrane systematic review.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 54.2 (2020): 74-78. ↩︎
  3. Moore, Josephine C. “The Golgi tendon organ: a review and update.” The American Journal of Occupational Therapy 38.4 (1984): 227-236. ↩︎
  4. Freiwald, Jürgen, et al. “Foam-rolling in sport and therapy–potential benefits and risks: part 1–definitions, anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics.” Sports Orthopaedics and Traumatology 32.3 (2016): 258-266. ↩︎
  5. Valat, Jean-Pierre, et al. “Sciatica.” Best practice & research Clinical rheumatology 24.2 (2010): 241-252. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Akanksha Raj

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