Physical therapists use them with their patients, and people are buying them in large numbers for their home gyms as well. They are a great little tool for working out those sore, aching muscles and the spine, while improving mobility and flexibility at the same time.
They are a great alternative to a professional massage for boosting blood circulation, too. But as with any form of exercise equipment, the highest levels of physical benefits largely depend on the proper technique in which the equipment is used. Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid that fitness experts regularly witness by gym members using foam rollers.
- Roll slowly and deliberately. It might be fun to roll around on these cylindrical devices at warp speed, but this won’t give your muscles time to adapt to the applied pressure and compression. If you are using the foam roller to reduce aches and pains in a particular area, slow and deliberate motions are best.
- Avoid rolling directly on the specific area of the pain. Body aches and pains can often be caused by an imbalance of tension elsewhere within the body. Fitness experts recommend starting the rolling process in areas that are nearby, but not directly on, the exact location of the pain. Gradually add larger, sweeping motions that extend across the entire region.
- Focus on proper posture. When using a foam roller to alleviate pain, we sometimes find ourselves twisting and contorting our body in rather odd positions. Bad form or improper posture might exacerbate the condition or even cause further injury. It’s usually recommended to first seek the advice of one of the professional trainers in the gym to learn the proper form.
- Don’t overdo it. Foam rollers are great for working out knots in sore muscles, but be careful. It might feel terrific at first to use the roller on one particular area for 5 or 10 minutes, but extended pressure to an individual area can actually lead to further injury. A general rule of thumb is 20 seconds of rolling action on each sore spot, utilizing slow, deliberate movements.
- Never use a foam roller on the lower back. The general purpose of a foam roller is to relieve tension in sore muscles. When using the roller on the lower back, this actually causes the muscles to tighten in order to protect the spine. This is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Foam rollers are great for relieving stress and reducing normal, everyday body aches. Just be sure to take the time to learn how to use these devices properly. Improper form or using the rollers for extended periods of time can actually make you feel worse. And don’t be afraid to ask a fitness trainer at the gym for assistance. That’s what they get paid to do!