I’m sitting 3 feet away from my newly bought foam roller, and I’m asking
myself, the same thing you are, “how to exercise with a foam roller”.
HONESTLY, I’ve never been a huge foam roller geek, but one night changed all of that. I had an indoor soccer game at my local area, and In between games, my friend had this 2 feet wide, bulky, and ferocious looking piece of exercise equipment-almost like seeing a the body shape of a pit-bull.
I asked Sergio, hey what is that tube looking thing. “C’mon Mike, A Foam Roller”. He said it like I was from another planet, which quite frankly made absolute sense.
To keep in mind, this was before my injury to my lower back. I asked him to try it out, and I literally felt like the new kid on the block. I was doing twist, and turns, stepping over it like a sofa recliner, rolling back and forth(thinking I was doing it right). I completely missed the point.
I made that 3ft foam roller look like DOO DOO. A foam roller shouldn’t be used to lightly roll over, it takes a little more effort that that. I didn’t know it at the time, but this one tool was made to:
- relieve muscle pain
- release tightness
- improve flexibility
…And way more! I looked at like some form of a therapeutic hands on massage device, silly me!
If you don’t know what foam rollers are and how to use them, or maybe you do, and need a light refresh, you’ll want to tune on in. I will not only be covering how to exercise with a foam roller, but:
- What are foam rollers
- How to use them for lower back pain
- Where it’s best to exercise with
- When it’s appropriate to
Follow me on in the journey…
What’s A Foam Roller? Why Is It Needed?
Simply said, a foam roller is a very inexpensive, and super versatile piece of exercise equipment that will help you with everything from muscle knots to giving you quite the ab workout. If you aren’t using one already, I can now safely say, you’re missing out!
They’re not like any other piece of exercise equipment you’ve tried out, because they provide extensive massage and fitness results, unlike tools like treadmills, resistance bands or weight do. A foam roller usually comes in a cylindrical shape, but they can vary in sizes, shapes, and especially textures.
When you use them for a self massage, they will help you soothe your tight muscles, and any sore area from top to bottom. The process of rolling out tight muscles and reliving your tension is known as myofascial release(which you can learn more about what it is here..
Essentially the point is to loosen any tight knots by hitting each trigger point in your area of pain. So let’s say for example I had a tight and sore muscle in my right hamstring.
What I would do is roll the middle part of the foam roller under that leg over and over up and down the muscle, releasing every trigger point.
The larger the foam roller, and the smaller your area of pain is, the less it will be able to target that specific localization. In the case that you need a larger foam roller would mean that that there would be larger area of your body with multiple knots.
And a smaller foam roller would help alleviate smaller areas(like your foot) much more smoothly and effectively.
How Do You Use A Foam Roller Safely and Effectively?
Now that we’ve covered my quirky story, and what foam roller is, let’s head into a more useful zone, and talk about its uses.
If you’re a beginner, it will likely feel a little awkward, OK maybe really awkward, but you not everything comes natural, look at the great Houdini, magic didn’t always come natural-he didn’t just “trick” his way into it.
Over a couple uses, you will get the techniques down and become more acclimated with its use. When you go to use a foam roller, make sure that you know what area you are targeting. If It’s a delicate area like your spine, and if you have back problems, always get cleared by your doctors and physicians first.
What you want to do is apply slow and light pressure directly to the target you’re hitting. Check out this video for the exact “how to”
The Exercises Of Desire
Before getting your workout in, we have to keep a couple things in mind:\
- What’s the goal
- What’s the outcome
You can’t go blindly into a position and expect that you’re going to kanker out your knots and soreness, and the same goes after you’re done. If your goal for example is to roll your hamstrings for a strenuous sporting activity, you want to make sure you do it thoroughly, and apply strong pressure.
Here are the very common exercises:
A great exercise to fit your abs and lower body whole challenging your balance is what Pilates workouts are all about, and it’s no different with your buddy Mr. Foam roller.
Are you planning to get your feet out for a run but want to loosen up your muscles first? Start by rolling out your quadriceps to prevent discomfort from short or long distance running
3.Training And Conditioning
If you’re just trying to get yourself in shape and in better condition this will be for you. What you want to start off with is challenging your upper body and move that slowly to your abs to strengthen your core.
4. Yoga Prop
This has to be my favorite use of it. I have a bad back, and If you knew me, you’d know I like to do yoga everyday.There’s nothing better than strengthening and getting your back flexible, and now with the addition of a foam roller, it will add extra support and keep you in better balance if you can’t keep yourself stable.
There’s a pose -The Savasan pose that I lose my balance on at times, but with a foam roller, I can slip it under my knees, and WALLAH!
When IS It Appropriate To Use A Foam Roller?
As much as there is an upside to using foam rollers, there can also be a downgrade just around the corner. While it’s never wrong to put a foam roller to use, it can become too much or if it’s not granted, the wrong environment.
For 2 weeks straight I became really dependent on using my foam roller, so much so that I had it at work, at my works gym, and there was another one waiting for me at home. While it’s nice to use foam rollers at any given moment, becoming too attached can actually block you from getting any real stretching and exercises done.
Here’s an example: Someone like me with lower back pain needs his yoga, and needs his proper stretching and exercising routine at certain parts of the day.
If ALL I focused on were getting knots and sore muscles out of my body, I would use up all my time just doing that. The tricky thing about muscle knots is that they don’t always go away in a matter of seconds or minutes.
So, distributing your time to a couple minutes, like 10 min out of each day to begin is the place to start. And right away you can get into crunch time, and get the rest of your day flowing.
Build a schedule for yourself that will work. Here’s mine for example:
Morning: Before I head off to work, I’m going to do 10 minutes of foam rolling.
Work: Take my 15 minute break to head into the gym space and roll out my sore knots from sitting.
Afternoon: Exercise, activities with family.
Evening: Foam Roller for a little before working out. 15 Minutes maximum
Night: Use a small 5 minute routine to get any sore ties out.
Work: Foam Roll for 10 minutes
Afternoon: Spend it doing more productive things like working, spending it with family.
Evening: Foam roll for 15 minutes
Night: Relax, get any stretches in to improve your strength and flexibility.
So as you can see this is an example template, and one that I would use myself. Ofcourse, there are more days in the week, but if you’d like to know more about those days, leave me a comment below.
Anytime you’re in the gym you know its go time, but before you get on your grind, it’s fist time to “chop chop” and get your warmup in. Using a foam roller before will maximize your flexibility, and allow for your muscles to take on the added pressures of:
- playing sports
During your workout is also a good way to ensure that you stay loosened up, and ready to go. Just look at what the best basketball player in the world does:
After you’re done, you can do a couple light stretches first, and then bust out the foam roller and get your exercises in that are seen above.
Are you planning to travel anytime soon? Guess what makes the perfect company?…A foam roller!
The thing I love about foam rollers is that I can honestly take them anywhere I wish. The other day I was taking a trip from Vancouver, WA(where I live), and I was going to Hillsboro, OR.
Although it’s not a flight, or a 3 hour trip, 45 minutes is still pretty far. So what I did was easily place it in the front seat of my car without having to shift seats.
I could have placed it anywhere else, and with clutter and it still would have had its place.
3, 2, 1 liftoff! Wait a minute, that’s a rocket, nonetheless its air travel(and I’m sure astronauts have one with them). Even before you get on your plane, you should carry your foam roller just in case you will need it. This is especially important for those of us with chronic pain.
While you’re waiting at your terminal, you can try to find a clear spot on the ground and stretch. I used to do this all the time when I was going state to state, and out of the country for soccer. It works extremely well!