How to use the fitness tool everyone's obsessed with.

At the moment I keep seeing women at the gym rolling their buttocks, legs and other various body parts over these strange, long cushion-y tubes – and the trend seems to be growing.

So I can’t be the only one wondering – what is a foam roller and how does it work?

Personal trainer and holistic health and wellness coach, Kirsty Welsh, describes foam rollers as a self-massaging and therapeutic tool for your body. Rolling and rubbing your body over the foam (“self-myofascial release”, if you want to get fancy) helps release pressure which builds up in your muscles and fascia, which is the connective tissue.

There are 10 types of exercisers out there. Which one are you?

“If you think of the white skin around a mandarin, we have that sort of stuff in and around our body and it can get tight,” Kirsty explains.

Working these knots out of your body with a roller helps to prevent injuries and, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, it can also improve your body’s flexibility.

“It seriously is one of the best investments you can make for your body,” Kirsty says.

Here are Kirsty’s pointers for getting the most out of a foam roller.

1. There are different types of rollers.

What is a foam roller
Image via Flickr

Beginners should start off with the longer standard blue full foam cylinders.

2. The best time to roll is before a workout.

“It will help release tension from your body, so you can move through a full range of motions,” Kirsty explains. “Also, [use one] before you go to bed to unlock your body. Your posture will be better while you’re sleeping.”

The free, easy way to fall asleep (and no, it’s not counting sheep.)

3. Try to use your roller at least once a week.

Kirsty says this consistency will help your fascia line lengthen.

4. Roll out your whole body.

However, if you are strapped for time focus on your hips, upper back & glutes.

5. When rolling, start at the bottom of your legs and roll up to your midsection.

Kirsty recommends rolling slowly - about an inch per second. "Always roll towards the heart. It will work your lymphatic system,” she adds.

6. Remember to breathe.

“Chill out - it’s a relax and restorative time. Think of it like yoga.”

5 easy yoga moves that’ll fix your dodgy back

7. If you find it painful - ease off a bit.

“It’s like a self massage. The tighter your body is the more painful it will be," Kirsty says. The intensity of the sensation is based on the pressure of your body weight.

The price of foam rollers ranges from around $20 upwards, but Kirsty says no one brand is better than another.

Like with any gym activity, the million dollar question is: will form rolling burn many calories? Sadly the answer is no, but it does help with distributing nutrients around your body which will give you an instant mood boost. Winner.

Do you use a foam roller and have you found it beneficial?

On the topic of fitness accessories, here are the ones we reckon you need - and the ones you probably don't.