One of the latest trends in the fitness and wellness industry is the use of the foam roller. Simple foam roller exercises are proving to be a natural and convenient way to release tension and stress in the body without leaving your room or office.
While techniques like mindful meditation and yoga can be an excellent way to relieve any built-up, mental stress and anxiety, practicing some foam roller exercises can be a great solution for releasing any of the physical effects of stress in the body.
What Is a Foam Roller?
Like the name sounds, a foam roller is a cylinder-shaped (or roll-shaped) object made from foam. In the past, it has been typically used by athletes, coaches, and physical therapists to alleviate pain and tension in the muscles, but recently, it’s become a more common fitness tool for everyday consumers.
Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (the technical term), helps release tightness in the muscles by applying pressure to specific points and massaging the muscles.
Foam Roller Benefits
As mentioned, foam rolling can be beneficial not just for its effect on muscle tightness, but it is also beneficial for releasing any pent-up stress in the body. The muscle-massaging activity of the foam roller helps smooth out and hydrate fascia, which is the connective tissue that links the bones to the muscles and joints.
In turn, the smoothing and hydration of the fascia provide many benefits, including:
- Increases circulation in the body
- Improves drainage of the lymphatic system
- Flushes toxins from the body
- Lubricates the joints
- Reduces inflammation
- Increases flexibility
- Increases range of motion
- Increases connectivity of muscles
Foam Roller Exercises
Before you begin any foam roller exercises, it can be helpful to talk with a physical therapist and have them show you some of the exercises in action. Foam rolling can be slightly painful, but it should feel more pleasant than unbearable.
Practicing foam roller exercises the right way starts out with finding a foam roller that isn’t too firm. This can take some experimentation as not all foam rollers are created equal. It’s also important that when you use a foam roller, you avoid using the roller behind your neck or behind the lower part of your back; these are the bony points of your body that do not have muscle protecting them.
Here are a few exercises you can try with your foam roller:
- Begin by placing the roller on the floor in a vertical position. Lie down on top of the roller, so that the roller is positioned underneath your head all the way down to your tailbone; your neck and back should be fully supported.
- Position your arms at your sides, with your palms facing up. On an inhale, slowly move your arms out and up above your head, but do not actually lift the arms off the floor. They should remain as close to the floor as possible. Like the name of this exercise suggests, this is similar to how you would use your arms if you were making an angel in the snow.
- On exhale, slowly bring your arms back down to your sides.
- Repeat this a total of 8 times.
Rolling Out the Kinks
- Begin by lying flat on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Position the foam roller underneath your mid-back (not your lower back). Clasp your hands behind your head to support your head and neck.
- Use your feet to gently move your body so that the foam roller moves up to your shoulder blades (no higher), then move your body in the opposite direction so that the foam roller comes back down to the bottom of your rib cage. Be careful not to actually move further below the rib cage; you do not want to use the foam roller in your lower back area.
- Inhale as you roll up, exhale as you roll down. Repeat this movement 10 times.
- Start out by lying on your stomach on the floor. Prop yourself up with your forearms, positioning the foam roller under your hips. Keep your knees stretched out wide, but your calves and feet raised in the air, with your feet meeting each other. Keep your core engaged like you would in a plank so as to not put pressure on your lower back.
- Move your body forward so that the foam rolls down towards the knees. Exhale as you do this movement.
- Inhale as you move your body back and the foam rolls back up towards your hips.
- Repeat this movement 8 times.