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Foam Rollers

For stretching purposes, massage and even balance exercises, foam rollers are enjoying a resurgence as highly cost effective fitness accessories. See how our TP Therapy rollers can help your sports performance too.

Did you know that for a very inexpensive item for your gym, you can get quite a few benefits. From helping with stretching through to massaging those sore limbs when your workout has been too intense, the humble foam roller has come a long way in recent years to be one of those must have accessories for athletes and gym users alike.

With the ability to target specific muscles with massage you can either tend to injured muscles to help rehab, or for warming up and activating muscles ready to workout. It's no longer an accessory that's used in place of a workout, this is a flexible and adaptable training aid that can be used in a wide range of ways.

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buying guides for foam rollers

Foam Rollers Buying Guide

How Do Rollers Work?

You may have seen foam rollers in the gym but not been sure how to use them. Let’s start with what they actually do.

In summary foam rollers release tension and tightness between the muscles and the fascia. This tightness often occurs when you do resistance workouts or repetitive sport. People often refer to this as ‘knots’ that form in muscles. Poor posture and stress can also have a negative effect on our muscles as well as training and working out. Foam rolling can help your flexibility and prevent you getting injured. They work by you using your own body weight in the roll.

The term for this is called self-myofascial release, or to you and I it means self-massage. By applying pressure to certain muscles you will help them recover and become healthy and elastic. Rolling can be uncomfortable, similar to the pain you can get whilst stretching, but beware, the pain should not be unbearable.

Some practitioners don’t believe the foam roller should be used on all muscle groups. So which muscle groups would most benefit?

How Do I use The Foam Roller?

Apply moderate pressure using your body weight over the muscle that is giving you problems. You should roll slowly, the guide tends to be no more than 1” per second. Try to relax as much as possible when rolling. If the muscle is really painful, roll around it as this can help to loosen the entire area.  The key things to remember is never to roll a joint or a bone, muscle only!

The next day the muscle may feel a little sore. Along with the rolling you need to remember to drink lots of water and sleep.

Which Muscle Groups to Focus on

The outside part of your lower leg, or to get technical your tibialis anterior. These muscles really get working when you walk or run, so runners can really benefit from foam rolling these. Calf muscles, the soleus the big muscle in the middle of the calf and the gastrocnemius will also benefit.

The muscles in the front and side of the thigh and your glutes will also benefit from foam rolling.

Does it Hurt?

It can be uncomfortable but as we have said it shouldn’t be excruciating. The benefit of using the rollers is that you are in charge of the roll so you can control the pressure you are putting on a specific muscle group.

Can I Not Just Stretch Out?

Yes you can but a stretch will not necessarily deal with real tightness deep within the muscle. Rolling will break up the knot in your muscle, resume the blood flow and get the muscle back to normal far more effectively.

What to Look for When Buying a Foam Roller?

Foam rollers can be used both for stretching and also for core training. So a good starting point is to determine what you want to use the roller for. Some people for example would do better to buy a half round foam roller if they are looking to improve their balance.

Firmness

Rollers also come with different degrees of firmness. Some manufacturers colour code their rollers to help you see how firm they are. On the whole white rollers tend to be the softest, followed by blue and green. If you see a black roller then they tend to be the firmest. A white roller could be a good choice if you are starting out as they allow for movement between the muscles, bones and the roller. On the other hand a black roller is great if you are experienced or need to apply really hard pressure.

It is also useful to think about how much use the roller will get. Black rollers tend for example to be very durable, white rollers will be fine if you use them only sparingly. If you use a white roller a lot then you may find it warps over time.

Roller Size

Most foam rollers have a 6” diameter but the length will vary from 12” to 36”. A long roller can be very useful for back muscles whereas a shorter roller can be good with a small muscle in say your leg. So do think about how you want to use your roller, or buy some of varying lengths.

In Summary

As with nearly all gym equipment, you do get what you pay for. Buy a quality roller that will last the test of time, many will also say that they will not warp, so look for that guarantee.

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