How many times has this happened to you: you decide to start a new gym routine, and you absolutely kill it the first day. You spend an hour working up a great sweat, make sure you leave time to stretch, and walk out of the doors feeling super accomplished and motivated to do it all again the next day — but then that next day comes and you’re so sore you can barely get up out of bed.
The first part of combating this exercise mistake is to make sure you don’t push yourself too hard when you first start a new workout. But there’s another way to make this scenario less likely: foam rolling.
Read on for some of the health benefits of this relatively easy (and cheap) soreness busting activity.
What Is Foam Rolling?
Otherwise known as a form of self-myofascial release (SMR), foam rolling is the act of using self massage to ease myofascial tightness.
What exactly is myofascial tightness? Basically, it’s when the myofascial tissues (tough membranes that connect and support muscles) in our bodies become tense and tight after undergoing “microtraumas,” such as after a hard workout or acute injury.
A typical foam roller is simply an oblong object made out of foam. Routinely sold wherever you buy workout clothes or equipment, foam rollers are relatively inexpensive and easy to store — even in the smallest of apartments.
What Are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
One aspect of foam rolling that has received a lot of research recently is its ability to help improve range of movement and flexibility, although there is a caveat: longer sessions that include “more forceful” SMR produce the best results.
A second aspect that has slightly less conclusive evidence is the benefits foam rolling may have on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is that familiar situation where you work out really hard on Tuesday, and don’t feel the soreness from it until Wednesday. In fact, a small study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2017 suggests that foam rolling could be an effective treatment “to prevent or to regenerate from muscular fatigue,” after exercise or sports.
While most current research on foam rolling states that the evidence is just shy of being conclusive and additional studies are needed, the connection between this self-massage technique and improvements in muscle soreness and flexibility is strong. If you’re considering taking up foam rolling before or after your next gym session, talk to a coach or a trainer about the best places on the body to roll out for maximum benefits!