Hollow foam rolling has garnered immense popularity over the last few decades due to its ability to increase flexibility and performance for athletes while providing relief for exercise-related soreness. In fact, there are now entire classes dedicated to foam rolling, which involves rolling a foam roller (which is essentially a tube) over different parts of the body.
Known as an SMR (or self-myofascial release) technique, foam rolling has proven to be one of the best ways to relieve muscle soreness, inflammation, and tightness while increasing the range of motion in the joints.
With that said, it’s important to dive into each benefit hollow foam rollers can provide to understand if you should use them.
Hollow Foam Roller Benefits
1. Easing Muscle Pain
Foam rolling is well known for easing muscle soreness and reducing inflammation. A study of eight participants showed that foam rolling after physical activity reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness.
In the study, the men used the foam roller for 20 minutes after exercising and then again 24 to 48 hours after exercising. The men reported a decrease in muscle soreness compared with those who didn’t use the foam roller.
It was also indicated that they seemed to have better performance in exercise than those who didn’t use the foam roller. More research is being done in this area.
2. Increasing Range of Motion
While more research will be necessary a study of 11 teenage athletes showed that foam rolling did increase range of motion when combined with static stretching.
More research is being done with larger diverse groups of athletes but compared with those who only did foam rolling or static stretching the combination was effective. The range of motion helps with performance and overall flexibility. The best results come from stretching and foam rolling after each workout.
3. Temporarily Reducing Appearance of Cellulite
The best way to get rid of cellulite is to have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. However, many creators of foam rolling products claim that they can loosen your fascia reducing the appearance of cellulite. Fascia is the tissues that cause cellulite.
4. Relieving Back Pain
The best way to use a foam roller for lower back pain is to turn it so it is in line with your spine and slowly roll from side to side. Using it in this way can prevent arching and further straining your back. Foam rolling can be great for easing lower back pain as long as it is done correctly.
5. Managing Fibromyalgia Symptoms
In another study of 66 adults with fibromyalgia, the participants used foam rollers for a period of 20 weeks. They reported feeling better and having less pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. This study also showed that participants had an increased range of motion. More studies will need to be done to further prove this theory.
6. Helping You to Relax
Using a foam roller to loosen tight muscles can help you relax and release tension. This will help you feel calmer overall. While studies have not proved foam rolling to increase relaxation it is worth trying if you feel stressed and tight. It can be a beneficial habit to add to your overall routine.
Exploring The Safety of Foam Rolling
Wondering if foam rolling is safe? You should avoid foam rolling if you have serious injuries and always check with your doctor before beginning a physical regimen.
Don’t use the roller with small joints such as ankles because you could damage them. If you are pregnant you might find foam rolling beneficial but do not roll out your calves in your third trimester which can lead to early labor.
Overall foam rolling is considered very safe especially if done correctly. It can be great for muscle tightness or if you exercise regularly.
Choosing The Right Foam Roller For You
Foam rollers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and firmness. Generally, they are cylindrical and made of dense foam.
You may need to try a few to see what you like best and what is most comfortable. Shorter rollers can be great if you need to travel with them a lot and also for smaller areas like arms and calves.
Types of foam rollers available:
- Smooth: these are best for newbies and usually less expensive. They have an even texture and smooth dense foam.
- Textured: for more experienced foam rollers these have ridges and knots. They can work more deeply into muscle tissue.
- Foam-covered massage sticks are great for your upper back and legs and can provide a deep massage.
- Foam massage balls are great for working out specific areas you want to target like a knot in your shoulder.
How to Start
For those that are new to foam rolling, we recommend doing a little research first, such as watching videos for beginners.
These are great for showing how to use a foam roller safely or to target a specific area of the body. If you notice foam rollers at your gym ask your trainer to show you the best way to use them. Some areas offer foam rolling classes that can be beneficial.
To get started, be gentle with yourself and use light pressure. It can be painful at first if you have really tight muscles. The best way to change pressure is to change the amount of bodyweight you are using on the roller.
Go slow and roll an area for 10 seconds at a time working up to longer intervals. Drinking lots of water while foam rolling will help with muscle recovery after your workout.