The foam roller – friend or foe?

Pimpled foam roller

An often diminutive piece of sports equipment, the foam roller is a central item of kit for even the part-time fitness enthusiast.

The aim of the game is mainly recovery, but they can also help when preparing for exercise. Recovery-wise, after a session that has left you sore, a foam roller comes in and rolls out the pain. Well that’s the idea anyway.

Like a lot of you, I’m often attracted to fitness equipment I can sit down on. I don’t see this as lazy – just comfortable!

I have a love-hate relationship with my foam rollers. I’ve been using them on/off for several years. Two feature in my kit (seen side-by-side below). These are a double-legged wider one and a small pimpled one (a.k.a ‘the bruiser’).

The double-legged version means I can sit on it, a leg either side. It’s easier to work on both hamstrings simultaneously. Plus it’s a little softer than the pimpled version due to being worn in more.

How to use a foam roller

Foam rollers can be used over most body parts. Popular areas are hamstrings and quads, both of which are currently vying for a spot on mine.

Be careful not to use them too vigorously. Many a time have I found small bruises on legs the next day and wondered where they’ve come from. They’re from the pressure made by the roller.

This is particularly why I dare not use a foam roller for the back. Experts say they’re good for the back, but I’d rather avoid the agony the next day myself.

Foam rollers

You don’t need too much space to perform some foam roller exercises. To start, simply place the roller on the floor and sit on it.

Then move it to the area you want to massage, such as the calf muscles. It’s best to do one leg at a time. Balance might be tricky at first but you’ll get the hang of it.

So, with one leg either resting on the other or by its side, gently begin to slide up and down on the roller. You get a feel for it quickly and work out how firm you need to go in order for the roller to really get stuck into your soreness.

Weird looks

You’ll find foam rollers in gyms and sports clubs everywhere. Made out of compressed foam, they often sit alongside other odd looking equipment such as balance trainers or Bosu balls.

In my experience, most fitness products look plain weird. I mean, see the ‘weight bars’ here. They remind me of Gladiators and their pugil sticks.

Take the roller for instance. It’s essentially an ugly cylindrical piece of equipment with spikes and grooves all over it.

I guess maybe it’s designed to replicate the hands of a real-life human massage therapist. There is even a vibrating foam roller on the market now, which frankly sounds even lazier to use than the standard version.

But in terms of functionality, foam rollers just work. They hurt a bit but they work.

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