The Most Valuable Tool in the Gym That You’ve Never Heard Of

Foam Roller - The Most Valuable Tool in the Gym

Since first becoming a trainer, one of the very first things I learned about was probably one of the most important that I teach as often as possible with my clients their first day in the gym. Before studying to for my first personal training certification, I’d never heard of this amazing tool ever. Most people have seen this tool sitting in the corner of their local gym or at sports stores, but walked right by it without ever having any clue the amazing benefits it has to offer. The miracle tool I’m referring to is called a Foam Roller.

What is a Foam Roller and why is it so beneficial you ask?

A foam roller is a form of Self Myofascial Release (SMR) or in simpler terms a form of self massage therapy utilizing your own body weight to apply pressure to tight or over active muscles.  While at first when using this simple, yet effective tool your first inclination will be this is extremely painful and to get off it as fast as you possibly can, I will explain why you should stay put for a minute. Most people are familiar with static or corrective stretching, but don’t realize that in order to get the most out of your stretches you need to break up adhesions in your muscles or which are also known as ‘knots” before you can properly lengthen your elasticity of your muscle fibers completely.

I will briefly break this down a little further to help you understand why you should go out and buy one or find one the next time you visit your local gym. Your muscles are composed of two mechanoreceptors or sensory receptors. The first type is called muscles spindles and the second is referred to as Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO’s). Muscle spindles are receptors responsible for keeping your muscles from over lengthening and the rate at which your muscles lengthen. Golgi tendon organs deal with force production and work to prevent you from placing excessive stress on muscles, which can lead to injury.

How do you use this magical tool?

Let’s start with you lining yourself up on the foam roller finding a tight spot on your body such as your legs. Then, using gentle pressure roll up or down the leg keeping the foam roller over a muscle, not a joint to reduce your risk of injuring yourself. Next, find a tender spot and then just stop and hold pressure on that spot for a minimum of 30 seconds. It may take longer, if you tense up due to the pain so make sure to focus on controlling your breathing and relax to allow your muscle to release. Finally, once you have finished torturing yourself and breaking up all that tightness you didn’t even know existed take a minute to then stretch and lengthen out your muscle spindles.

When is the best time to use self myofascial release?

I suggest foam rolling before your start your warm-up and workout to get optimal results. You may roll out after your workout during your cool-down as well as needed. There are many other forms of fascial release, but I recommend if you are first starting to begin with a foam roller. I will be posting video tutorials on how to properly use a foam roller and other simple tools around the house or gym soon.