Foam rolling may be a new concept to some athletes but one they should definitely explore if aching muscles have them at their mercy.
There is no hidden message in the name: individuals use a foam roller (think small pool noodle) to apply pressure to specific points on the body.
The result is improved flexibility, reduction in sore muscles, and enhancements in the joint range of motion.
Additional benefits include improved blood circulation, relaxation of tight muscles and potential improvement in athletic performance.
According to Daimon Bobby, Ultra Sports Clinic’s senior physiotherapist based at the Third Space luxury health club, the frequency of foam rolling activity can vary based on individual needs.
“It generally can be done daily or several times a week, especially after workouts or physical activity. However, it's essential to listen to your body. Some individuals may benefit from more frequent sessions while others may find less frequent use sufficient,” Daimon says.
Foam rolling can also be beneficial on non-exercise days to alleviate muscle tightness and improve overall flexibility.
Many people use foam rollers to target specific areas of muscle tightness or discomfort, such as the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and upper back muscles.
While Daimon says it's not always necessary to have a sports physiotherapist oversee your foam rolling program, their expertise can be valuable, especially if there are specific injuries, chronic conditions or concerns.
“A physiotherapist can provide personalised advice, identify areas of focus and guide you in using the foam roller correctly to avoid exacerbating any existing issues.”
There are however instances when athletes should exercise caution or avoid using a foam roller. Daimon says these include cases where there are/is:
· Open wounds, bruises or areas of acute injury.
· Severe pain or inflammation.
· A medical condition that affects the skin or blood vessels.
· Certain neurological conditions, such as peripheral neuropathy.
“You should always consult a healthcare professional or physiotherapist if you have concerns or specific health conditions before incorporating foam rolling into your routine.”
There are a range of excellent exercises that can alleviate muscle pain in different parts of the body.
For the lower-to-mid back, for example, individuals can place the foam roller underneath their lower back. The knees should be bent and heels flat for this exercise. Once in this position, they should cross their arms over their chest and recline back slowly. The foam roller is moved to the lower-to-mid back by bending the knees and pressing down on the heels.
Have a look at these tutorial videos to learn some other great foam rolling exercises:
Quadriceps / Hip Flexors
ITB (iliotibial band)