How You Can Actually Work Out With Your Foam Roller

Trevor Thieme C.S.C.S.
Photo credit: alvarez - Getty Images
Photo credit: alvarez - Getty Images

From Men's Health

This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

There’s a reason why nearly every gym on the planet has foam rollers. When used before, after, and between workouts, they can help enhance mobility, boost blood flow, and ease muscle tension, both priming your muscles for action and helping them recover from it. But with a little ingenuity, a foam roller can also become one of the most effective muscle-building tools you’ve never considered.

The key to using a foam roller during your workouts—instead of just before and after them—is knowing how to take advantage of its long, cylindrical design to make exercises easier or harder.

When placed vertically on the floor with the top held in one or both hands, a foam roller can be used for support, enhancing stability and helping you maintain your balance as you master advanced exercises such as the pistol squat and single-leg, single-arm Romanian deadlift.

Positioned horizontally (so it can roll), the tool can be used for the opposite effect, adding instability to exercises such as the plank, pushup, and glute bridge when placed under your hands or feet. That instability can increase muscle recruitment, and the more muscles you recruit, the more muscle you build.

Your move: One or twice a week—or any time you don’t have access to weights—use a foam roller to inject variety into your routine by transforming classic exercises such as the plank and push-up into more diabolical ones (e.g., plank rollout and offset rolling pushup). As mentioned above, it can also be used to help you tackle difficult unilateral (one-sided) moves until you’re ready to perform them without support.

When you’re done with your workout, don’t forget to roll out the same muscles you just worked. In addition to speeding recovery by easing muscle tension and enhancing blood flow, a small study showed that foam rolling can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

The result: Less downtime between workouts, and greater performance during them.

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