Did you recently add a new workout to your routine? Have you just gotten back into the fitness swing? Either way, there’s no doubt you’re experiencing a case of delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS in short.
DOMs are those aches and pains that you experience when you haven’t used a set of muscles in a while. Muscles that have been hibernating are suddenly woken up, and oh boy – you feel it. It’s that burn you feel in your abs, quads, glutes, biceps, triceps – or whatever other muscles your new workout is focusing on. While many like to say that DOMs “hurt so bad, it feels good”, in reality, there’s nothing that feels good about that tight, burning sensation.
That’s where foam rollers come to the rescue. If you loathe the idea of wincing pain after a workout, you’re definitely going to want to look into foam rolling and its benefits.
What are Foam Rollers?
You’ve probably seen them in gyms or in your local sporting goods store, but just in case you haven’t… Foam rollers are a form of exercise equipment. Usually, they’re cylindrical and long, like in the photo below; however, they are an assortment of shapes, sizes, and even textures to choose from.
What do Foam Rollers do?
Foam rollers are used for myofascial release. What’s myofascial release? It’s a practice that involves the application of sustained pressure to myofascial tissues – the connective tissues that run throughout your body and support your muscles and bones.
The purpose of myofascial release is to encourage muscles that have contracted to release. Releasing the contracted muscles helps to increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the affected area, which helps to minimize pain.
So, what are the benefits of foam roller use? They offer a myriad of benefits, but here’s a look at the top five…
1. Promote Blood Flow
As mentioned, myofascial release helps to promote blood flow to the contracted muscles. When the muscles are contracted, blood can’t properly flow to the area, which leads to pain. Applying gentle, sustained pressure to the site where you’re feeling DOMS will help improve the flow of blood to the connective tissues and the muscles.
2. Enhance Movement (pre-workout)
When blood flows properly through the muscles, they move better. As such, when you’re working out, your muscles will be able to glide with ease, which leads to smoother movements. When your movements are more fluid, there’s less of a chance that you’ll pull a muscle mid-workout. It’s for this very reason that athletes use foam rollers before they engage in a workout or a competition.
3. Improve Range of Motion
Blood lubricates muscles, and well-lubricated muscles have a better range of motion. When you have a better range of motion, you can use more of your muscles in a workout; when you use more muscles, you have a more successful workout.
4. Reduce Injuries
Increased circulation through your muscles and connective tissues enhances your movements and increases your range of motion, which leads to more effective movement. The more effectively your body moves, the less likely it is that you’ll sustain an injury. Why? – Because your body will move more fluidly, and more fluid movements mean less risk of injury.
5. Less Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Lastly, myofascial release can help to minimize the stiffness, pain, and burning sensation that is associated with DOMS. That aching pain can kick in a day or two after you’ve completed a workout, and it can throw a wrench in your fitness routine.
All of the above-mentioned benefits that foam rollers offer can significantly reduce the risk of pain and soreness that often occurs after a new workout or when you’re active after a period of relative inactivity.
Why Should You Foam Roll?
Given the distinct benefits that foam rollers provide, it’s easy to see why you should invest time in the activity; but, in case you need some specific reasons why you should consider foam rolling, here’s a couple of great reasons.
Foam Roller Benefits for Back Pain
If you’re suffering from back pain, foam rolling can help to alleviate your discomfort. It’s no secret that massage is an effective way to minimize back pain. When you use a foam roller, you’re essentially practicing self-massage.
Whether your back pain is a side effect of DOMS, or it’s a chronic ailment, the improved circulation and enhanced range of motion that foam rollers provide can help to alleviate discomfort you are experiencing.
Foam Roller Benefits for Runners
If you’re a runner, engaging in foam rolling before you lace up your sneakers – and after you take them off – can be highly beneficial. The increased blood flow, improved range of motion, and enhanced flexibility you’ll experience will make your workouts more effective, reduce the risk of injuries, and speed up your recovery time.
Foam Roller Benefits for Cellulite
While the practice of foam rolling is often associated with reduced pain, greater flexibility, improved motion, and faster recovery time (among other things), it can also offer a superficial benefit; it can minimize the appearance of cellulite.
It helps to reduce inflammation and promotes lymphatic drainage, which encourages detoxification; it also strengthens the connective tissues. All of these things combined can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite and make your skin appear smoother.
|Keep in mind that the best way to get rid of cellulite is through healthy diet, fat loss and muscle building. While foam rolling can reduce the appearance of cellulite, losing weight and replacing it with muscle will work much better.|
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re an athlete, a serious fitness enthusiast, a casual runner, suffering from back pain, or you want to enhance your appearance, foam rolling is worth your while. Getting into the habit of myofascial release is a fantastic way to enhance your overall health and well-being. It will help you get more out of your workouts, reduce pain; and it will make you feel better – and look better, too!
Check out your gym to see if there are foam rolling classes you can enroll in, or get one from Amazon to engage in the activity on your own with some handy DIY workout videos; either way, you’ll be sure to reap numerous benefits when you make this practice a part of your regular routine.