What is the Foam Roller?
The foam roller is a tool, or an educational aid, used to perform simple, complex and real exercises.
It has very many and articulated applications; some are really well-founded, others less so. The major areas of relevance are:
- prevention and rehabilitation
With the use of the foam roller, many personal trainers structure real slimming cards, or protocols aimed at preventing or reducing cellulite, not without controversy from the most skeptical – or realistic, depending on the point of view.
The foam roller can therefore perform exercises for muscle self-massage, muscle lengthening and joint mobility, balance, muscle warm-up and strengthening – although it is not highly specific for this area.
The foam roller is also not without contraindications. There are circumstances, especially of a pathological or para physiological nature, in which it becomes risky to perform certain movements. This is also true for other types of protocol and the use of other instruments. It is therefore advisable to consult an orthopaedist or physiatrist, physiotherapist or personal trainer – depending on the case.
The foam roller has a cylindrical shape, internally full or hollow. It is made of synthetic material – foam – composed of one or two layers with different physical characteristics – hardness, elasticity, etc. On the inside it is smooth, while on the outside it has protuberances called proprioceptive buttons. Each foam roller “works” differently and the numerous models can be classified by: type of surface hardness, diameter, length, material, design, range and price. The choice should be made based on one’s own needs.
Using the foam roller does not require specific clothing or special accessories. If you want to use it for self-massage, it would be unproductive to wear thick clothing; the same goes for executions designed to improve muscle flexibility and joint mobility, which require freedom of movement by requiring non-elastic clothing.
What is the Foam Roller For?
Using the foam roller is advertised for various purposes.
The many purposes that lead to the use of the foam roller can be contextualised, depending on the aim, in different areas. Some are:
Health: accident prevention, therapy and rehabilitation
Motor activity: a sport or fitness complement; it is especially useful for certain mobility exercises
Wellness and aesthetics: in wellness, the foam roller is used for muscle relaxation and as an instrument for reactivating circulation, useful in the fight against cellulite.
Aesthetic culture: fight against cellulite formation.
However, it is not always gold that shines; as is often the case, some benefits attributed to this tool result from a subtle marketing strategy.
Foam Roller Benefits
- The foam roller, if well used, contributes to the reduction of painful symptoms that characterise some chronic pathologies. In fact, there are many rheumatological conditions that can benefit from greater global activation, both in terms of joint and circulatory movement. Leaving aside the importance of physical activity in the prevention of rheumatism (now of global domination), arthrosis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, etc., we focus instead on its necessity during treatment.
- The well-contextualised foam roller – with the support of a specialist – brilliantly accompanies post-injury muscle, tendon, ligament and joint rehabilitation.
- Some exercises with foam roller can improve balance, both in athletes and sedentary people; this function is very important in maintaining the basic motor skills of the elderly – for the reasons we will explain in the next point.
- Valid support for muscle stretching and joint flexibility exercises, the foam roller helps to improve the range of motion by optimising the “functionality” of the locomotor system; this is true for sportsmen and women, but even more so for the sedentary. In the geriatric field, all this can have an enormous impact on improving the quality of movement – and therefore on the quality of life – self-sufficiency, accident prevention and therefore life expectancy – let us not forget that bone fractures (such as that of the femur) and related complications are among the episodes most responsible for death in old age.
- The foam roller is one of the most useful aids in “dry” and/or “on-site” heating. This can be useful where it is not possible to run, jump rope, ride an exercise bike, elliptical, or swim. It is a valuable support for pre-race maintenance.
- For the reasons we have mentioned, if used continuously, respecting a specific protocol, the foam roller allows to reduce the use of professional massages and physiotherapy sessions.
Cons of the Foam Roller
Using foam rollers is contraindicated, especially in case of special physiological diseases or conditions.
Some examples are:
- Acute muscle, tendon or joint inflammation: from contusion, stretching, tearing, sprain, subluxation, or dislocation
- Pain too intense. Whatever district you are talking about
- Certain compromises of the spine: such as lumbago, herniated disc in risky positions, other injuries
- Severe osteoporosis
- Severe compression of any joint, or characterised by arthrosis, arthritis, gout, etc. too intense and inflammatory.
- Instability or joint laxity
- Joint prosthetics
- Pregnancy: in this case, the suitability or otherwise of the protocol is a highly specific and situation-dependent variable.
Types of Foam Roller
The various foam rollers can have unique characteristics. If we want to classify them, we can divide them by:
- Shape: foam rollers are essentially cylindrical; the inside can transform, if full or hollow. Also, in the latter case, they often differ in thickness and number of layers.
- Diameter and length: as the diameter increases, the articular excursion necessary to make it slide along the body segments decreases; the length is not relevant, if not for comfort.
- Surface: in a certain sense it is part of the shape, but it is so important that it requires a mention. The surface is generally characterised by proprioceptive buttons, more or less developed, which emphasise the self-massaging effect. Some are smooth.
- Material: it is always synthetic but changeable. It changes the physical characteristics of the object (hardness, elasticity, etc.), therefore the body’s response to the exercises.
- Design: it is a promiscuous feature which has a certain importance on how it works, but also on its ability to attract buyers’ attention.
- Range and price: we deliberately associate them because, in its essence, the foam roller is a very elementary object. The price increases as the range increases, but mainly for marketing reasons, secondly in relation to the materials used.
How to Choose the Right Foam Roller
The choice of a foam roller rather than another is subjective. It varies according to your budget, but also and above all according to how you want to use it.
For example, if we are mainly interested in self-massage, our choice will turn to a foam roller with highly developed and prominent proprioceptive buttons. If we use it for strengthening, mobility, flexibility and balance exercises, we will prefer a completely smooth and resistant foam roller.
Foam Roller Workout
Training with foam roller, in terms of frequency, duration and type of stimulus, should be essentially planned in relation to personal variables and the results to be obtained.
As we have already said, the various objectives and goals can differ from each other, just as the level of the initial subjective condition – low, medium or high – and the one set for us is also different.
To begin with, it is advisable to limit the duration of the sessions to a few minutes, even just 5′ per day, but ensuring a high frequency – better if daily. It may be appropriate to include the exercise in the post-workout or, possibly, in the pre-workout – depending on the type; within the training it would be less easy to manage and should be placed in the recovery – this may not fit the needs of a session at very high intensity, or in particular conditions (swimming, cycling, running, etc.).
From the outset, a precautionary approach is appropriate. Every movement or gesture of the table must be approached with limited excursion. As far as the speed of execution is concerned, it must always be low. Each exercise can be repeated 10-20 times, interposing a pause between the various areas of the body, progressively increasing continuity.
Using the foam roller is mainly associated with the reduction of muscular pain, especially because of small contractures or fatigue because of athletic gesture; we specify that the pressure of the body weight on the foam roller and the resulting self-massage – thanks to the proprioceptive buttons – should be localised both on the point and on the surrounding areas. It is not recommended to achieve intense pain and to insist on areas of tendon passage, or under which the bone or joint is already present.
In statistical order, the other use of the foam roller is as a point of support / grip, characterised by instability. In a similar way to what happens with balance trainers or proprioceptive tablets, it allows some exercises to be carried out with greater difficulty and without the use of overloads. Being unstable, it recruits a greater number of muscles – including stabilisers – and trains the balance in parallel – such as in push-up, plank and squat (in the latter case it is advisable to pay close attention to the risk of losing balance and breaking the tool). Also, resting between your back and a wall – therefore not under your feet – rolling allows you to accompany the movement of the sidewall?
Similar speech can be made for stretching and joint mobility exercises. Also in this case the foam roller can a support point, this time less unstable, or as a brace for the movement; in the latter case, it allows the angle of excursion to be progressively increased, maintaining a more or less costing speed.
How to Lose Weight With the Foam Roller
The foam roller does not make you lose weight. Other tools allow you to increase energy expenditure considerably, but this is not the case., by maintaining a constant diet and inserting a daily enhancement protocol with a foam roller, excellent results could be achieved, but this would be repeatable with any other activity.
Speaking of cellulite, the matter becomes more complicated. The only certainty is that as of today there are no systems to treat cellulite;Methods can be found to improve circulation – if inefficient – lymphatic drainage and therefore reduce water retention. Even considering its self-massaging capacity, I can’t believe that significant results can be achieved with the foam roller. However, trying doesn’t hurt.
Clothing and Accessories To Use With the Foam Roller
There is no clothing suitable for foam roller, but clothing relevant to the activity. For muscle flexibility and joint mobility exercises, it is advisable to prefer elasticised garments that do not offer resistance and increase the difficulties; microfiber mixed with cotton is always an excellent compromise. The same is true with self-massage; clothes that are too thick, such as sweatshirts and overalls for example, do not allow proprioceptive buttons to work deeply on the body’s soft tissues.
Also in this case it would be suitable to prefer microfiber mixed with cotton, or even just cotton. Half sleeves and shorts are always the best choice.
Among the useful accessories for foam roller tables, we would mention a good synthetic mat, not too thick – it would alter the work of the cylinder – but not too thin either – it would not allow to cushion the contact between elbows, knees and ankles with the floor.