The Most Useful Piece of Kit You’ll Own

If you’ve yet to add a foam roller to your at-home workout kit, now’s the time to remedy that. Although you might be back in the gym and working out regularly again, foam rolling is one of those things that is a great idea to do any time (or whether you exercise or not), simply to keep you flexible and mobile in and around your gym sessions. A bit like self-massage for your muscles, the benefits of foam rolling are numerous, plus it can be done either before or after a workout for equally great results. Choose to do it before your workout and you’re helping to warm your muscles, ready them for exertion by increasing blood flow and prevent injury; done after your session (or anytime of the day) and you’ll be relieving tension and promoting faster, better recovery.

How does it work?

While research into how foam rolling actually works is still fairly limited, the leading theory is its ability to work as a form of myofascial release or MFR, working on the connective tissues under the skin called fascia. The fascia is what holds together everything from muscles and organs to nerves, bones and blood vessels; in other words, it’s integral in supporting the body and keeping everything running smoothly. Whether it’s through injury, exercise, stress or simply being too sedentary, this fascia can easily get tight and tough, forming knots that are often painful and can inhibit recovery and make you more prone to injury; foam rolling is thought to help break up these adhesions. Another additional theory is that like deep tissue massage, foam rolling works by putting pressure on the muscles, which then signals to the CNS (central nervous system) to release and reduce tension. However, it works, the consensus is that it’s an affordable piece of kit that’s worth its weight in gold. Here are some more of the many benefits you’ll get from it…

Improves flexibility

Regularly using a foam roller in your warm-up can improve flexibility significantly, with some experts noting that you get a substantial increase in flexibility immediately afterwards for about a 10-minute time period. As well as the accumulative benefits you'll be getting, this enhances stretching and will help you move better in your session. Of course, the more flexible you are the better you’ll perform long-term, and the less prone to injury you’ll be.

Improves range of motion

Increasing your range of motion is so vital because mobility underpins and determines all of the movement that we have access to. Thanks to a natural degradation in range of motion, it’s more important than ever to keep your joints strong and mobile as you age. Foam rolling can help you significantly reach your full range of motion and unlock some of that stiffness, making it an excellent choice for regular use.

Reduces stiffness

If you’re someone who sits for long periods of time, whether it’s in the car or behind a desk, you’ll be familiar with feeling of stiffness that comes with it, thanks to the fascia that becomes compressed and tight. The good news is that foam rolling can help ease the stiffness by decompressing the stiff muscles and releasing some of the tension in the fascia. Schedule it in as a dedicated desk break (as you would with a coffee break) and your body will thank you for it.

Promotes faster recovery

Working out puts a lot of stress on the muscles, tissues and joints but foam rolling can help by targeting these overworked areas and preventing adhesions in the fascia from building up. In reducing soreness you’re also giving your body the best chance of recovery, meaning it can focus on repairing itself efficiently in time for your next session. Foam rolling also helps deliver fresh, nutrient-rich blood to the muscles, helping to boost healing further.

Prevents injury

Warming up your muscles with a foam roller is a no-brainer way to help your muscles prepare for the fact they’re about to be challenged. Increasing blood flow and stimulating pressure ensures your body is better prepped for activity and will be less prone to potential injuries afterwards too.

Improves posture

If you know you’re guilty of slouching at your desk, get yourself a foam roller, fast. As well as strengthening core muscles which helps you stand taller to begin with, regular foam rolling can help flatten out hunched shoulders and can even help realign musculature imbalances which lead to bad posture.

Enhances sleep

While you might not think about how it can help you get better shut-eye, the simple action of reducing whatever tension you’re holding on to in your body will help improve your night’s sleep. Using the foam roller for 10-minutes before bed every night is a great routine to get into; often the act of disengaging the mind and focusing purely on your physical body is enough to leave the day’s stresses behind and induce better sleep.