Over the past few years, foam rollers have seen an increase in popularity among the fitnessconscious crowd along with massage balls, theracanes, foot rollers, and the like. Foam rolling fits under the umbrella known as selfmyofascial release; in essence, selfmassage for improved body function and this is just one foam roller benefits that we’ll be talking about here today.
Foam rolling is performed by “rolling” in various positions on the foam roller to target certain areas of the body, using your own bodyweight as the force providing the pressure. So, why should we be interested in foam rolling in the first place?
As men on the journey of becoming the best versions of ourselves, our physical performance, health, and functionality are essential. In order to be our best, we must be able to function and perform at our best. This is where many disciplines and positive habits come into the equation.
It is my goal to share with you many of the foundational disciplines I’ve incorporated into my own life, foam rolling being one of them. In this article, I will present some of the amazing benefits of making something as simple as foam rolling part of your daily routine.
The great news is, you can pick one up for around 20 dollars and reap many of these foam rolling benefits by using it just 10 minutes each day. All of the benefits I outline will be interrelated and built upon one another, which is the point; foam rolling truly allows your mindbody to be improved as a whole.
Now, let’s get to why:
Foam Rolling Benefits: 10 Reasons to Start Using One Today
Here are the 10 foam rolling benefits that will make your life a little bit easier, and which will make you feel a whole lot better. Each one is more powerful than the last. Enjoy.
1) Release Muscular Tension
I’ve included what I consider to be the most important and perhaps the least recognized effect of foam rolling first. Each day we encounter an endless array of stressors and emotional triggers. Often times, these emotions will go unnoticed if it’s something we’re used to reacting to; it simply becomes unconscious. Other times, we feel ourselves harboring this tension inside.
The problem arises when much of this emotional energy becomes trapped within our physiology, eventually resulting in decreased function and many ailments. Our mindbodies, by nature, are in a constant state of storing and releasing energy, just as the cycles of the changing seasons. But in our modern society, we tend to store and trap most of this energy with little release.
As children in a classroom, we’re told to sit still, be quiet, and mind our business. But this doesn’t teach us much about expressing our emotions or effectively releasing angst or frustration, does it? At times, those emotions may have been triggered to the surface in what we often call a “temper tantrum.” But as adults, we must fit into the little box that society has created for us; no more expressing what’s really inside. It gets buried deep and covered over.
Our pentup emotions literally begin to destroy us from the inside out.
This could be an entire article in itself, but for anyone interested in further navigating these ideas, I highly recommend exploring Dr. John Sarno’s concepts of “TMS” and also the field of “bioenergetics” rooted in the work of Wilhelm Reich.
As we become more and more sedentary while simultaneously increasing our leftbrained, analytical tendencies, we are elevating our stress levels while decreasing our physical and creative release. We’re no longer required to move and expend energy for our basic needs as life intended, so many of us harbor and restrict this outward flow and release indefinitely.
Foam rolling, as with all forms of massage, releases tension by stretching and softening our musculature. It allows us to target areas that may be particularly prone to storing tension as well, often the upper back and base of the neck.
We must keep in mind that this stored energy is not stagnant, but wants to rise and release in the same way that heat rises. The rippling and massaging effect of foam rolling allows this tension to be alleviated and relaxed away. Combine this with deep breathing and proper stretching and you’ve got an effective recipe for lightening the emotional load.
Learn More: How Foam Rollers Release Muscular Tension
2) Promote Relaxation
Much of the relaxation benefit from foam rolling is accomplished by the release of tension which was just explained. It’s important to note, however, that true forms of positive relaxation are becoming increasingly important. We tend to equate relaxation with zoning out, distancing ourselves from our problems, and distracting ourselves in any way possible.
Rather, foam rolling can allow us to ease into our bodies and connect to our physiology (much in the same way that meditation does). This warrants what I would call “positive relaxation.” After a good foam rolling session, you should feel relaxed, softened, and grounded, the same as you would after a great massage.
Learn More: Here’s some great relaxation tips using a foam roller
3) Promote Healthy Posture
Another unfortunate effect of our modern lifestyles is that we spend far too much time in positions of horribly unhealthy posture. Many of us spend hours each day hunched over a desk, our pectoral muscles tightened, arms outreached, and neck flexed. Even without a desk job, we come home and sink into the sofa or recliner, looking to be sedated by the quickest means possible.
Many fail to recognize that in order to keep our bodies in optimal health, we must pay attention to our posture at all times. Without maintaining our natural positioning, we are unable to breath deeply, robbing our cells of vital oxygen. We are also allowing certain muscles to become shortened and tight, while others are being elongated and mildly strained. All this, as well as weakening our core strength which is essential for stability and proper functioning of the body.
With a foam roller, we can reverse some of the effects we may see from chronic poor posture. While rolling the upper and midback, we can get a great thoracic stretch bending backward and allowing some commonly tight muscles to stretch. We can also allow our chests to expand, open our rib cages and breathe deeply. For a great stretch, I suggest extending the arms overhead as well. Hold this position and count some deep, slow breaths.
4) Increase Core Strength
Another great benefit that you will reap from the majority of positions while foam rolling is increasing your core strength and stability. Adequate core strength is essential for maintaining proper posture and allowing us to maintain mobility without injury. Diving deeper, it is believed in Eastern teachings that our pelvic floor (location of second chakra) is linked to joy, harmony, and many other positive emotions. This is also the seat of our emotional grounding.
We could add intuition to that mix as well. Ever heard of going with your gut?
The point being, having a strong and stable core is essential for strength and overall health. You will find that the majority of positions you’re in while foam rolling will adequately engage your core muscles to a large degree. Even better, you will likely be engaging these muscles in positions they’re not normally challenged in.
Learn More: Ten Minute Foam Roller Core Workout
5) Break Up Adhesions & Scar Tissue
When we foam roll, we are effectively softening and stretching the layers of our skin, muscle, and fascia, hence the term “myo” muscle, “fascial release.” Fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue that essentially binds and holds everything in place under our skin.
Over time, microtears, adhesions, and scar tissue can form in these layers. This can affect normal movement while causing pain or discomfort.
When foam rolling, we are stretching these layers and providing pressure which allows adhesions to heal and function to be restored. This is one of the many foam rolling benefits that drove me to start in the first place.
6) Increase Flexibility
Our flexibility is vital for proper body movement and injury prevention. With a flexible body, our muscles are generally less strained and we can move and feel our best.
Flexibility is strongly diminished by the fact that we spend less and less time moving our bodies in the way they were designed to move. Our legs are flexed and bent while so much time is spent seated (tight hamstrings), arms outstretched at a desk or table with our scapulae protracted (tight pecs), and we’re often slouched over and rounded at the back and neck (constricted breathing, increased abdominal pressure, and neck strain).
Foam rolling does wonders for flexibility by not only providing a stretch to the muscles, but also by allowing them to soften and release tension as previously described. As men, we’d like to think of our musculature as a suit of armor likened to the strength of steel. But the truth is, a healthy and optimally performing body is one with muscles that are not just strong and welldeveloped, but also yielding and flexible as well.
The tallest structures in the world would come crashing down if they were not designed to bend with the wind.
Check out this fantastically comprehensive and detailed guide from Healthy But Smart on all of the benefits and scientific findings behind the benefits of foam rollers, if you are still somewhat unsure as to why this might be something that will be of value to you!
7) Optimize Recovery After Training
Improving rest and recovery periods after training was one of the first major claims of foam rolling and also why it began to find it’s popularity among trainers and athletes. However, you don’t need to be an elite gymnast or competitive weightlifter to reap these foam rolling benefits after a workout.
As seen with the many benefits of any massaging effect on the body, you will encounter muscle relaxation, increased blood flow, and a mild stretching and breaking up of adhesions in the layers of tissue. This is especially significant in regard to posttraining activities as exercise induces microtrauma to the muscles.
The consistent rolling pressure also provides the benefit of moving lactic acid after a hard workout. This buildup of lactic acid is often responsible for the soreness we feel after hitting the gym or taking a long run (especially if it’s been a while). Massaging the lactic acid out of the muscles will make for less soreness, quicker recovery, and less time needed before you’re back at it.
Scientific Study: The Effects of a Foam Roller on Physical Exercise Recovery
8) Improve Circulation
A monumental effect that might otherwise be overlooked is the fact that foam rolling is amazing for increasing blood circulation. Improved circulation offers a myriad of overall health benefits.
Some of these benefits include increased oxygen uptake by your cells, efficient nutrient delivery and absorption, and the movement of lymph fluid to stimulate our immune system and help push toxins out of our bodies.
9) A Unique Whole Body Detox
We seem to be in the midst of a detox craze as many people are beginning to recognize the toxicity of the foods we eat, the air we breathe, and perhaps the worst – the negative thoughts we think. But while some people are brewing up a lemonwater concoction or looking for the latest “positive thinking” book, it’s important to recognize just how great we can start to feel once we allow our bodies to detox naturally.
Foam rolling offers the unique benefits of softening our musculature, relaxing away tension, and promoting the movement of blood and lymph circulation simultaneously. This can also be seen with conventional forms of massage, but I would add that with a foam roller, the consistent pressure and “rolling pin” effect may make it even more effective for the purposes of fluid circulation.
The pressure applied while foam rolling is like squeezing a sponge (except that you are the sponge), and toxins in the body can be moved into the circulatory system where they’re more easily eliminated. Once again, it is also great for stimulating the lymphatic system which helps your body eliminate toxins and boost its immune functions.
10) Maintain the Discipline of a Healthy Habit
This last point of emphasis in an obvious one, but it is one that I didn’t want to overlook. By now, you should be well aware of the power of positive habits. Foam rolling is a simple and extremely beneficial discipline that you can easily work into your day (or evening, as I prefer).
It’s my belief that “adding in the good stuff” should be the primary focus when it comes to establishing new, healthy habits. Everywhere you look, the emphasis is on stripping away the “bad”: cutting out carbs, cutting out sweets, stopping the negative thoughts, stopping the selfdoubt. But this creates a void.
We’re addicted to our little problems. There’s a reason they’re habits.
Rather, add in some healthy habits that get you feeling good and you’ll be more motivated than ever. The best part is, the unhealthy actions will begin to fade away, having been replaced by positive ones. Trust me, when you’re eating foods and taking actions that have you feeling inspired, have your brain firing right, and have you running on all cylinders, stopping for fast food after work suddenly won’t seem that appealing.
Foam rolling is a great, simple healthy habit to add in. After a good foam rolling session, my body feels relaxed and grounded, which often lays the path for a great meditation thereafter. I then feel better, sleep better, awake better, and on and on it goes. It’s all about putting ourselves in the mindset of building positive momentum. The power of creating foundational habits is essential for success in any area of life and you might just find that foam rolling is one you want to stick with.