It’s not surprising that many weightlifting newbies tend to injure themselves when starting out. Whether it’s a result of improper form, bad posture, or stiff joints, a good number of injuries occur as a result of poor flexibility all over the body. Foam rolling is a great way to increase overall mobility and it’s excellent for pre-workouts and for treating soreness that sets in afterward.
Foam rolling is the perfect warm-up activity because it stimulates muscle tissue and increases blood flow to the areas being worked. Warming up before training should always be part of your workout regimen. Foam rolling is like a mini-massage for cold muscles. It wakes them up and gets your body ready for a safe and productive workout.
Not only is it beneficial to foam roll pre-workout, but post-workout is as important. Studies show that post-workout foam rolling helps alleviate DOS (delayed onset soreness) which occurs up to 48 hours after a workout.
Weight training over long periods of time can cause tension to build up in the muscles and in the fascia, the thin layer of tissue surrounding the muscles. Eventually, those spots turn into knots, or trigger points, that cause pain and stiffness. In physical therapy, one of the most common forms of treatment is called myofascial release (MFR), which is a fancy term for breaking up and releasing those knots. Therapists often use methods like manual massage and electrical stimulation to do this, but foam rollers accomplish the same thing! In fact, another word for foam-rolling treatment is called self-myofascial release.
The kind of foam roller you need will depend on exactly what you’re using it for. They come in a range of sizes, textures, and densities so it’s helpful to understand the differences between them and their intended use. If you’re just starting out, a medium density roller is best for getting an idea of what you can and can’t tolerate. Foam rolling will be painful at times, especially when you’re sore, and a medium-density roller offers room to switch to a firmer or softer version, depending on your personal preference. A low-density roller can be ideal for people that are sensitive to deep massage because they provide the least amount of penetration to the muscles with minimal pressure. If you’re in a lot of pain or have a particularly tender area, use a low density roller to start the process of loosening the muscle knots and work up to deeper massage as it improves.
High density and textured rollers work best for people with widespread or severe muscle tension because they put the most force on the skin surface. High density rollers apply equal and intense pressure as you roll across them and the textured types have small protrusions that designed to dig in even deeper. If you have chronic muscle tension or deal with trigger points on an ongoing basis, a high density or textured roller is going to get you the best results.
Once you’ve determine what you’re comfortable with and which type of roller is best, you can experiment with the different sizes that are available. There are short and long foam rollers and even some that look like they’ve been cut lengthwise. Full length rollers cover a large area and short rollers work great for hard-to-reach spots. Finally, the rollers that look like they’ve been cut in half are designed to build strength and balance in the ankles and release tension in the feet.
Regardless of which roller you pick, it’s good to be educated on how to use it properly, pre and post workout.