Foam rolling. It can be painful. It can seem monotonous. But incorporating it into your workout routine may be doing your muscles a big favor.
If you're an athlete, or even just a casual gym-goer, you likely know about the myriad benefits of taking just five or ten minutes to "roll out." To an onlooker, it's an awkward process. You're writhing around on the ground rubbing your body against a weird foamy log. If an alien came down to Earth and the first thing they saw was a human foam rolling, they might turn around.
People obviously wouldn't be doing this aesthetically awkward ritual unless there was something to it. And it seems there is. Studies even back it for helping with delayed-onset muscle soreness and short-term flexibility (if you roll before a workout).
Caroline Pearce, MSc, an international athlete and a Power Plate master trainer, explains that foam rolling has benefits when it comes to both stretching out before a workout and recuperating afterwards. "When we workout, we're naturally breaking down the muscles and causing trauma, which results in tightness and knots," Pearce says. She explains that rolling out helps get more more blood flow to the muscles and relieves tension.
When it comes to proper rolling, Pearce says it's important to use your body weight to roll repeatedly up and down the belly of the muscle, avoiding your joints. So, say you place the roller at the bottom of your calf muscle while sitting on the ground, then use your arms to lift your body and put weight on the calf where the roller is. Move up and down slowly and gently to work the muscle. That's a crash course, but many rollers come with instructions, and any trainer hanging around at your local gym can help you do this, too. YouTube also has free tutorials.
But in order to incorporate this fitness hack into your routine, you should start with the right roller. Here are our favorites.
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