A deep tissue massage can do wonders for your sore muscles and aches. But, you probably can’t head to the spa every time your back hurts. Fortunately, foam rolling is a great way to get some deep tissue therapy at home. Check out the foam roll guide below to learn how a foam roller can help you and some tips on proper technique.
Foam Roller Basics
A foam roller may not look complicated, but it can work real wonders on your muscles. It uses the weight of your body to apply pressure to muscles and tight areas of the body. This massages and stretches the spots where you roll.1
The Benefits Of Foam Rolling
The stretching and massage from foam rolling offer your body all sorts of potential benefits. Foam rolling may help with:
- Sore muscles
- Flexibility and mobility
- Blood flow
Tony Horton will often use a foam roller on rest days to keep muscles loose and limber. This can make for a smoother and safer segue back into active fitness days.
Below are a few specific reasons you may want to introduce a foam roller into your routine.
Soft Tissue Therapy
Do you dream of a daily massage? Then dream no longer. Foam rolling can provide very similar deep tissue therapy.
That’s because foam rolling works out the soft muscle tissue that becomes sore from your daily activities. The pressure you put on muscles with a roller helps break up scar tissue and relax muscle adhesion.3
Also, when you move and warm up soft tissue, it reduces friction and supports better mobility.4
Myofascial Release And Increased Flexibility
Foam rolling triggers something called myofascial release. Fascia are the tiny connective tissues that bind muscles. By applying pressure to them, you increase their range of motion and pliability. Myofascial release works to improve your overall flexibility and to help ease soreness from tight muscles.5
Foam rolling stimulates the receptors in your body that relax the brain. This may help to reduce the production of stress hormones and even increases your tolerance for pain.6
How To Use A Foam Roller Properly
Don’t worry if you’re new to the foam rolling game. The guide below will help get you started on a proper rolling regimen. All you need is a foam roller, a little space, and a few minutes in the day.
For Soft Tissue Massage Try A Hold And Release
If you have a tight muscle that needs massaging, then the hold and release technique is a great way to stretch it out. The foam roller places pressure on that muscle. This causes the connective tissues to relax and become more flexible.7
Note – Consult with your doctor before starting any new exercises to ensure they are safe and healthy for you.
- Roll on your foam roller until you find the most tender spot.
- Stop and hold the roller in this position for 20-90 seconds.
- Release and roll from different positions to approach the sore spot from new angles.
- Repeat and hold.8
Hold And Release – Foam Roller On The Back
The hold and release is a great technique for back discomfort. Read how to use this method to work out knots and sore spots on the back.
- Sit down and place the foam roller behind your back.
- Place your hands behind your head.
- Extend the knees to slowly move the roller to the upper back.
- Roll back to return the roller to the lower back and repeat.
- Use this technique anytime you feel a sore spot along your back.9
For Mobility And Flexibility Side-To-Side Rotation
This method builds on the hold and release technique above. As you place pressure and hold on a sensitive area, slowly move a corresponding joint in a circular or back and forth movement. This movement causes the tissue to lengthen and may help work out adhesions around the joint.10,11
Articulation – Foam Roller For The Ankle
Articulation is great for joints like the ankle. Try this technique of foam rolling to improve mobility and to strengthen your ankle.
- Sit down and place the foam roller under the calf. Keep your other knee up.
- Sit up and move the foam roller until you find a tender spot.
- Hold the roller in place.
- Rotate your ankle three times clockwise and then three times counterclockwise.
- Repeat for other tight spots along the calf.12/li>
For Stress Relief Try A Slow Roll
Boost your levels of relaxation by taking things nice and slow. A slow roll will let you stretch important muscles with a soothing and relaxing pace.
Slow Roll – Thoracic Spine
The thoracic spine makes up one of the five regions of your spine. It attaches many muscles in your upper body (including your rib cage) and helps support good posture.13
A slow roll workout with a foam roller over this area may help you maintain a healthy stance and relieve tension that leads to stress.
- Place the foam roller under your upper back with your knees bent and feet flat.
- Put your hands together behind your head.
- Slowly lower your head to the floor. Let your back wrap around the roller.
- Roll with slow movement patterns up and down the vertebrae.
- Pause on any painful areas and focus completely on the thoracic area of the spine.14
Different Types Of Foam Rollers
Foam rollers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Basic models will mostly vary in density. Low-density models are softer on the muscles, while thicker rollers dig deeper into sore muscles. Choose one that’s best for you and your fitness style.15
You can also find more high-tech rollers on the market. These can add an extra dose of therapy and relief to your rolling session.
Textured Foam Roller
A textured foam roller lets you do a deeper tissue massage and focus more on specific muscle knots or tight areas.16
Vibrating Foam Roller
Vibrating foam rollers go one step further. The vibrating feature adds movement to the pressure therapy. This may allow the roller to penetrate deeper into your muscles and better activate tissues.17
On A Real Roll
Tony Horton recommends foam rolling as a supplement to your exercise regimen. But, you don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from a foam roller. It’s a simple and fast way to massage and stretch the muscles you use every day. Plus, foam rolling may help you prevent future injuries by keeping muscles loose.18
The next time you have aches or tightness in your back, skip the masseuse. Instead, spend a few minutes applying pressure to the tight spots with a foam roller. You may be amazed by what a simple foam roller can do for you. Again, always check with your doctor to make sure foam rolling is right for you.