• Foam Rolling Benefits: The Truth About Foam Rolling

Foam rolling – applying specific and direct pressure to portions of affected muscle tissue using gravity and a cylindrical piece of foam (sometimes with a general rocking motion to apply greater pressure).

I’m sure you’ve seen it happening in the gym, maybe you were left wondering ‘why?’.

Most of us experience some kind of muscular pain, stiffness or soreness from time to time. This can affect our workouts and prevent us from getting sufficient recovery. Pain and tension may even prevent you from moving freely and deter you from working out – I’ve been there and know how demoralising this can be.

However, help comes in the form of an unassuming cylindrical piece of foam that is popping up in home gyms and living rooms everywhere.

A foam roller, yesterday

Why are people doing it?

Foam Roller Benefits

I have seen foam rollers achieve amazing things (I recommend this one), the top foam roller benefits are:

  • Relieving trigger points and tension by applying isolated pressure to certain areas on your body (that you could not achieve with stretching alone).
  • Improve flexibility which is key for your training goals.
  • Increase blood flow and promote healing and injury recovery.
  • Foam rolling is a great tool to not only add to your gym routine but also your daily routine – foam rollers are highly portable and can work well alongside a decent Swiss Ball regime.
Foam rolling benefits: Having a foam roller helps you target the source of pain and tension with greater precision than therapeutic or sports massage

Personalised and Targeted ‘Massage’

Deep tissue massage works along the same sort of lines as foam rolling, however even a great therapist may be unable to tell exactly where the pain is, meaning that they may be unable to give those troublesome areas the pinpointed pressure they need.

Using a foam roller puts you in control and allows you to target the affected areas, ensuring you benefit a lot more.

How to perform a foam rolling exercise

Simply place the roller on the ground, gently press down on it muscle in question, and use a different range of motions until you find the affected area.

Work that area gently, place just a little bit of pressure on the roller.

Which Foam Rolling Exercises Should I Do to maximise foam rolling benefits?

My London gym studio uses the following guide that I put together on foam rolling, I decided to include it for you here:

Enter your email address and I will send you a free one pager guide to my favourite foam rolling movements

The Four Pillars of Health – Why Foam Rolling is a Key Part of Your Strategy

As I talk about here, the new physique that you are looking for this year will come from four things (and nothing else):

  • Nutrition
  • Training
  • Mindset
  • Recovery

The first three I’ve already written plenty on over at my Four Pillars blog, but I haven’t yet zoomed in on Recovery that much.

Foam rolling benefits - often foam rollers are effective in targeting calve cramps
Tight, inflexible calves can often be addressed by foam rolling techniques

People often associate knots, trigger points, and tension with “over-training” I don’t agree with this theory.

Yes, training does physically damage the muscle fibres and connective tissue, but the whole purpose of training is to push beyond your previous capabilities, to challenge your body in new ways and to force your body to adapt and create a leaner stronger physique.

The problem is not over-training, no…

…The real issue is under-recovering.

If one of my clients is suffering from any type of muscular pain, stiffness or soreness, perhaps from a recent injury or health complaint then foam rolling is a key part of my tool belt in starting the recovery process.

Too much sitting can cause knots, trigger points and tension.

Too much sitting and bad posture 

Knots, trigger points, and tension can be quite uncomfortable. We were made to move a lot more than we tend to, and those of us who don’t move around as much as we should, often suffer from knots and trigger points. It’s received wisdom that modern life is all too sedentary, and it’s true.

These ill effects can occur for a number of reasons but most commonly they result from postural imbalances or too much sitting, which your body just isn’t designed to do!

Studies have shown that if you tend to spend a lot of time sitting down, you could me more prone to suffering from trigger points. Let’s imagine you work 8 hours a day sat at a desk in front of a computer. If the work you’re doing is particularly stressful, you may be unconsciously rolling your shoulders forward, and tensing them.

One of the key foam rolling benefits is its ability reduce these effects of knots, trigger points and muscle tension.

But sitting at a desk for long periods of time is not the only cause of trigger points, they can also be caused by:

  • Joint pain
  • Lack of exercise
  • Bad posture
  • Sleep issues
  • Poor diet/vitamin deficiency
  • Sports injuries

Can foam rolling cause nerve pain?

As with anything in life, if one person is saying great things about something, someone else quickly wants to shoot them down. One of the purported drawbacks of using a foam roller is rumoured to be that  you can hit a nerve or cause damage to tissues through their use. Ignore this rubbish and focus on performing the exercises correctly, take your time to increase your movements and nerve or tissue damage is extremely unlikely.

Foam rolling benefits - foam rolling should mean good pain which means you're on your way to recovery
When performed correctly, foam rolling should only cause ‘good pain’ that is aiding the recovery process.

Does foam rolling hurt?

Another supposed downside to using a foam roller is that those new to this procedure may feel uncomfortable doing it. Using the roller as directed, you will be moving your affected areas in different ways, and you may therefore experience a bit of pain. But it’s good pain! Just like a deep tissue massage, using a roller may be slightly uncomfortable, foam rolling benefits are undeniable.

If you are very stiff and tender, I recommend trying a soft roller (or rolled up towel) or tennis ball , as they may be more gentle on your muscles.

Foam rolling benefits - PTs: foam rollers can really help your clients with recovery
Foam rolling benefits – Help your clients recover by advising them on the benefits of foam rolling

Advice for trainers looking to implement a foam rolling regime and deliver foam rolling benefits for their clients

  • Advise your clients to buy a foam roller if they are suffering from trigger points, muscle stiffness or general muscle pain (for any problem cases, obviously advise that they see a doctor first).
  • Download my guide to the top 10 foam rolling exercises (above).
  • Using a foam roller will boost their recovery time and improve the results you are able to achieve for them. If you’re the person that solves problems for your clients, they will love you and your marketing programme will run itself.
  • Educate your clients on the foam rolling benefits. Clients who regularly use a foam roller will have:
    • Increased muscle and joint flexibility
    • Improved posture
    • A lower risk of injuries
    • A decrease in their recovery times

If your clients understand the benefits of foam rolling, they will be more inclined to use one.

p.s. remember foam rolling should be implemented alongside a proper training, recovery and stretching routine.