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Foam rollers: why do I need one and what do they do?

How-To-Use-A-Foam-RollerWhy it's worth investing in a decent foam roller

I came across Pulseroll at The National Running Show 2018 and was impressed from the offset. Pulseroll offer vibrating foam roller products, the first I’d seen, and really it’s genius. I’ve had to use foam rollers before, the static kind, and when you’re struggling with DOMS it can sometimes hurt too much to give it your all. I’ve instead opted to using a Theragun on occasion (they cost a small fortune but they are amazing, for those of you wondering!), and it’s virtually the same concept here; getting the muscles moving and the blood flowing.

What can a foam roller be used for?

A foam roller can help to release painful knots and stimulate blood flow – a handy performance and recovery tool to have in the home that can be used both before and after a workout, and even by those of you who aren’t too keen on working out.

The idea is that you self-massage over painful knots and tense muscles of your body, known as Myofascial Release, effectively giving yourself a deep tissue massage.

Foam rollers can be used for:

  • Injury prevention pre-workout
  • Recovery post-workout
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Chronic back pain
  • To improve your posture
  • Improve flexibility and range of motion

What’s the difference between a static foam roller and a vibrating one?

Foam rollers are really great, and if you don’t have a lot of money then a regular static foam roller will do just fine. They can be uncomfortable – especially if you’re knew to foam rolling or you’re in a lot of pain.

A vibrating foam roller will make the process slightly less uncomfortable. It will also go further in calming any tissue damage and getting the flood flowing back through.

How do you use a foam roller?

Pulseroll have a great ‘how to use‘ section on their website full of videos on how to use your foam roller depending on what muscle area you’re targeting.

A few suggested movements for warming up include:

Calves – sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath one calf and rest your other foot on the floor for balance, then use your hands to bring your hips off the floor, rolling from the foam roller from your ankle to the back of your knee. Do the back of your calves, as well as turning your leg inwards and outwards. Repeat on both legs.

Iliotibial band – This one requires a little balance and may take a few attempts to master. Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath you and close to your hip; for balance, cross your leg over and rest your foot on the floor. One forearm should be on the floor and the other should be helping balance you upright. Now you need to pull yourselves back and forth, rolling from your outer hip to just above your knee.

We like this video by Kristal Dwyer at Qinetic Live where she gives a step by step run through of various ways to use a foam roller for your warm up:

Likewise, a few suggested movements for a cool down include:

Hamstrings – Sitting on the floor, you want to place the foam roller underneath your thigh. Even if you can fit both thighs on the foam roller, use one for stability on the floor, allowing you to turn in and out for one leg at a time. With your hands on the floor behind you, you want to roll from the back of your knees to your glutes.

Quadriceps – Now you need to flip it over, into an almost plank position, with the foam roller under your one quad and the other leg slightly elevated to apply more pressure. In this position, with your forearms on the floor, you need to slowly pull and push yourself backwards and forwards.

We like this short and snappy foam roller cool down video posted by POPSUGAR Fitness, presented by Adidas and featuring Niki Klasnic:

How do I pick the best foam roller for me?

Ultimately it all comes down to preference, but there are a few things to look out for with foam rollers.

Texture – textured surfaces and raised ridges will allow you to be more precise with muscle targeting. This means you’ll stand a better chance of rolling out your knots

Size – 13″ foam rollers are shorter, more lightweight and great for targeting smaller muscle groups. The 26″ foam rollers will provide you with more stability when working on your larger muscle groups

For someone who foam rolls regularly and can afford to do so, we definitely recommend getting a vibrating one. Pulsesroll have three on offer:

Pulseroll have three vibrating products on offer:

  1. Foam Roller Plus
  2. Foam Roller
  3. Peanut Ball

Whichever version you do choose to go with, make sure to watch plenty of videos on how to use it to maximise results.

Be sure to speak to your GP about any aches or pains that last longer than a week. Particularly if they are only temporarily made better using a foam roller.

Sam Walker
the authorSam Walker
Sam is a regular gym goer who loves a strong spin or step class. Her main fitness goal is to tone up and be a healthier / fitter version of herself.

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