You’ve probably seen those odd looking cylindrical objects at the gym, near your officemate’s desk, or maybe even in the corner of that hip, local coffee shop and wondered, “What on earth is that?”.
That’s right, it’s a foam roller. If you’ve never heard of foam rolling, well I’ve got a surprise for you — it will be your new favorite post workout activity. My name is Rey Joaquin, and I love sports. I hold that term dearly and loosely. It involves not only your local co-ed sports and social club, but also practically any other physical activity you incorporate in your life. So with that in mind, let’s begin.
The foam roller was invented by Moshé Feldenkrais, a Ukrainian-Israeli engineer and physicist “known as the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, a system of physical exercise that aims to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement.” In 1987, a Feldenkrais student named Sean Gallagher started using foam rollers as a tool for self-massage. The rest is history.
Why + What
Foam rolling is a fun post-workout recovery activity that can help minimize soreness, speed up muscle recovery, and increase overall oxygen and blood flow to targeted areas. All the muscles in the body are connected and surrounded by fascia.
Fascia noun, [fash-ee-uh; fey-shuh]: 1 a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.
Fascia can become unhealthy through overuse, injury, or even by repetitive everyday movements. Foam rolling serves as a great way to keep fascia healthy by circulating fresh, oxygenated blood. Healthy fascia means better movement. Foam rolling can ultimately help decrease muscle aches and soreness, increase flexibility and range of motion, and enhance muscle performance and recovery.
How Do You Roll?
It’s really simple: rolling is better than not rolling. A minute of foam rolling over a specific area of the body will improve muscle area and movement. Take a few pointers from our pals.
“One of the best exercises to perform is what’s called the ‘body saw,’” according to model and prosthetic art designer, Reef Hall. “It can be done by placing your forearms on the roller while in a plank position and rolling it back and forth without moving your feet. It’s tough!”
Retired professional snowboarder, Ellery Hollingsworth, says foam rolling is essential to her daily routine: “Some might classify me as a foam roller enthusiast. I’ve been foam rolling since I was 14 years old. When I was still competing on the US Snowboard Team, we’d foam roll every day before and after training or competitions to prevent muscle fatigue, flush out lactic acid, and increase recovery times”.
Sometimes, you’ll know when to roll. Take, for example, my favorite cosmic cowboy and cool-dad extraordinaire Mark Wystrach. In almost every way, Mark does it right — except in this area. He says, “I roll when my back tells me to, which is almost everyday, but then I don’t listen.” Don’t be like Mark.
So here are a few beginner techniques to try and get you rolling.
The Technique: Roll
The most common technique when foam rolling is all in the name. Roll back and forth on the target area a few inches at a time, repeating the motion as needed.
The Technique: Span
Spanning is a technique best used when you hit a tender area as you’re rolling along. Once you identify that tender spot, roll from side to side, perpendicular from the original direction of your roll. Repeat until you feel tension release.
The Technique: Stretch
Stretching using a foam roller can allow you to target muscles more precisely. Compress a spot and stretch in different ranges of motion. This technique increases circulation and mobility.
Foam rolling is a great and fun practice to cool down from a workout or daily activity, yet easy enough to incorporate in everyone’s routine. Don’t stress out whether you’re doing it right, there’s no wrong way to roll. Tweak your technique as much as it best suits you. That’s part of the fun.
Love foam rolling? Let us know how you roll. If we missed anything, be sure to share your best foam rolling practices and pro-tips with us below.