What Is A Foam Roller And How It’s Used

If everyone is telling you to buy a foam roller, we’ve uncovered the reason why.

Not only are they great for your body, but they can also help lessen cellulite!

foam roller

Picture: Getty Images

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is essentially a form of D.I.Y. deep tissue massage which uses a combination of bodyweight and a firm foam cylinder.

Foam rollers may be smooth (ideal for beginners and delicate areas) or textured (to really target ‘trigger points’). Its official name is self-myofascial release.

Why myofascial release (MFR)?

Because it’s more than a one-trick pony. “Most people come with pain, but continue because they feel more energetic, balanced and aware of their body,” says practitioner Lyn Breakwell.

The aim of MFR is to release tension in the fascia – the microscopic web made from collagen and elastin that cushions and supports every muscle, organ, tendon, and bone gives us flexibility.

How does it feel?

Using slow, sustained pressure, rather than wince-inducing muscle massage, the therapist will work on releasing tension in the fascia, until they, and often you, feel a kind of release or melting sensation where all the muscles relax.

“Where you have restriction, you will feel some tension and pain,” says Lyn. “But it’s what they call sweet pain, like a weight being lifted.” It leaves you with a wonderful “aaaah” feeling.

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DIY exercises at home

Try some of these exercises that Lyn gives her clients to do at home:

Foot roll

  • Using your full body weight, roll a tennis or small, spikey physio ball all around the bottom of the foot, for one minute each.
  • Now we know why this works – it helps release the restricted fascia from the foot right up to the back of the leg.

Chest opener

  • This is a great exercise to open the chest area – especially if you hunch over a screen all day. Plus, it also eases the blues. As Lyn says, “You never see a depressed person who’s open in that area!”
  • Lie on a foam roller, or rolled up bath towel from head to tailbone. Have your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms extended towards the ceiling, palms facing each other.
  • Keeping them straight, lower both arms, leading with thumbs, towards the floor, above your head like the letter l. Return, then repeat slowly several times.
  • As above, but move arms slightly out like a Y. Repeat several times.
  • As above, but spread arms wide apart and drop knuckles to the floor like a T shape. Repeat several times.

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Neck release

  • Lie face up with your neck on a foam roller, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Slowly roll your pelvis and spine off the floor (hands/arms still on the floor), so that there’s more pressure on the neck.
  • Slowly roll your head from left to right, paying attention to any sticky spots. This really feels amazing!

Two foam rolling exercises for cellulite

Alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh, who has trained Gwyneth Paltrow, says foam rolling can blitz cellulite by enhancing lymphatic drainage, flushing toxins from the body and strengthening the fascia, comparing it to “an internal juice cleanse”.

She suggests combining these foam rolling exercises with dry body brushing for optimum results:

IT Band Roll

“Hips are susceptible to blockages, tightness and rigidity, and are a common area of tension and stress,” says Roxburgh, especially if we spend most of the day sitting down.

  • Lie on one side with the roller resting under your thigh, just beneath your hip.
  • Bend your top leg, resting your foot on the floor in front of your other leg.
  • Rest your forearm on the floor. You can place your other hand on the floor, or on your hip to increase intensity.
  • Slowly roll up and down your outer thigh, spending 30-60 seconds on each hip. Stack your top leg on top of your bottom leg to increase the pressure.

 

Front Hip Roll

  • Lie on your front, forearms flat on the floor. Place the roller underneath your hips, keeping your feet together and hips wide.
  • Slowly roll your body forward and back so that the roller moves up and down the length of your thighs.
  • Engage your core muscles to stabilise you and prevent your lower back from arching.

Where to buy your foam roller

One hour treatments using this method, also referred to as the Lyno Method (a type of MFR), cost from R700-R1000. Visit www.lynosport.co.za to find a practitioner.

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