If you live in the world of fitness trends, you might have noticed that foam rollers are huge at the moment.
And for good reason.
They’re great as a post-workout recovery to loosen tight muscles and fascia (AKA the fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds your muscles), can reduce soreness and can prevent injury when used before exercise.
How exactly does one use a foam roller, then?
First thing first, get yourself a foam roller (they’re on sale right now. You’re welcome).
Ok... what exactly are the benefits of foam rolling?
The way Sam describes foam rolling is akin to how most people talk about chocolate biscuits... go figure.
"It’s one of those things that once you try it and feel how much it helps, you never go back," he says.
Sam recommends it for runners as it can act as a "trigger point release," and says it's particularly useful for spots that you can't stretch out, like that searing knot on your lower back.
Likewise, if you lack the flexibility to stretch out a particular joint or muscle, foam rollers can help to release tension that way as well.
Clearly a fan, he's even done two video's on how to foam roll, and Sam says he "absolutely swears by them."
"I’ve got one of them by my desk and one at home and I probably use it three or four times a week."
Now... how much will foam rolling hurt?
Here's the thing, if it hurts then chances are, it's working, says Sam. Specifying he says that you can't just "roll yourself around like a rolling pin."
Which is what most people instinctively do.
Instead he says that "you really need to target the areas that are locked up or tight and you need to spend a bit more time in those areas and wait till you get some mobility. Try and get some release before you work on the next one."
"For example, when I'm rolling out my legs, I make sure that I find spots that are a seven out of 10 on the pain scale,"
"I then work on them until I get down to a three or a four and I’ll move onto the next spot."
"He describes the process like being your own massage therapist, loosening the knots of tension."
"It's one of those things where you have to put yourself through a little bit of discomfort to get any benefit out of it," he says.
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How do you use a foam roller?
There's many ways to use a foam roller, and Sam says just five to 10 minutes of foam rolling will give you a real benefit. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Pre-workout mobility session.
This is great to ensure that you get the most out of your workout, or to increase performance during exercise as you can start loosening the muscles you're about to target before your work out.
"I’ll do some dynamic stretching, then start to activate the core and get my glutes going, and then use a foam roller to make sure I’m nice and mobile and loose," he says, and estimates that the whole process takes only six or seven minutes.
"If I’m about to do a back workout I will roll out my spine so that my rib cage moves properly, as it helps my form when when I do resistance exercises."
"Runners can also do this because it releases their IT bands which can gets quite tight, especially it you're an endurance runner."
This is what foam rollers are generally known for and can be used to target specific muscles post-exercise. You can generally intuitively figure out which areas need work, because they feel sore or tight, and then target the area with small back-and-fourth motions.
"They're great for your glutes," Sam says. "Just cross one leg over the other and roll, roll, roll. They're also great for your back and calves."
He also recommends using a smaller trigger ball (like this set) if you're targeting your neck, chest and hip flexers.
"I find if you combine the two you get the best benefits," recommends Sam.
As someone who's gone from being a personal trainer to clocking in a lot more hours in the office working on 28 by Sam Wood, Sam says he'll take foam rolling breaks to "open up."
"If I'm tired at work because I’ve been sitting at my computer working with bad posture, I’ll go for a walk with my dog and then do five or 10 minutes with my foam roller," he says.
"It can be really good to roll out your glutes if you sit down a lot and they get really tight.
So there you go... a comprehensive guide to Foam Rolling 101. Prepare for a much more limber, flexible, stretchy and looser you.
Have you tried foam rolling? Or have we convinced you to start foam rolling right now? Tell us in a comment.
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