Why Everyone Is Using a Foam Roller Right Now (and You Should Too)

The tool is more versatile than you think.

It should come as no surprise that when lockdown hit, big box stores saw a spike in sales for workout equipment. While dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells flew off e-shelves, so did a more simple, humble, workout tool—the foam roller. Why? This seemingly inconspicuous cylinder offers a slew of feel-good benefits.

We reached out to Heather Imrie, a physiotherapist at Rebalance Sports Medicine in Toronto, and Ana Cukic, a pilates instructor at Retrofit Pilates in Toronto, to learn how a foam roller can help you feel (and stand) a whole lot better.

Foam Rolling to Relieve Body Aches

Foam rollers can be used to relieve muscle soreness and aches you may experience after a workout, a run, or sitting at your desk all day. “With a foam roller, you’re rolling out tight tissue—a mix of muscle and fascia—to loosen it,” says Imrie. Rolling is actually similar to what a massage therapist, physiotherapist, or chiropractor would do. “They put deep pressure along a muscle or tight band to release the trigger point,” says Imrie. Keep in mind that for acute pain, or pain from a recent accident, it’s best to see a professional.

(Related: 6 At-Home Massage Tools Physiotherapists Swear By)

Foam Rolling to Increase Flexibility

Getting on a foam roller can also help you master those yoga moves you’ve been working on. How? “Rolling increases the extensibility of your tissue—it makes your tissue more pliable—and because of that, you are able to achieve a bigger range,” says Imrie. But rolling isn’t the only way you can use a foam roller to increase your flexibility—you can also use it as a prop to deepen your stretches. Can’t touch your toes? Cukic suggests trying to do so while sitting on a foam roller. The heightened position and angle can help you reach your toes while maintaining proper posture and without straining a muscle. “Sometimes people have super tight hips, so lifting them up a little gives them the freedom to do the move correctly,” she says.

(Related: 9 Ballet Stretches to Do for 10 Minutes a Day to Improve Your Flexibility)

Using a Foam Roller to Improve Posture

Is your new work-from-home life ruining your posture? Correct it by hopping on a foam roller. “We’re constantly rounded forward, which means there’s a lot of force being absorbed by the soft tissues of the spine,” says Imrie. Lying with your spine along the foam roller can reverse that position, in a safe and controlled way, by simply letting the back arch over the foam roller to create proper posture. “It also allows us to roll out those muscles that have been active all day,” says Imrie.

(Related: 5 Strength-Training Moves for Your Best-Ever Posture)

Use a Foam Roller to Warm-Up Before a Workout

“I use it to increase circulation and blood flow to the muscles and joints,” says Cukic. “It helps kick-start the body to move better.” It can also be used to work out any kinks that may cause pain during the exercise and weaken the workout.

Make Workout More Challenging

A foam roller makes a great prop for core training, core strengthening, and balancing work. Think about using it when doing push-ups or moves on all fours (like glute exercises). To balance on it, you need extra control to perform the exercises, so your core and posture muscles have to work a little harder, says Cukic. Both Cukic and Imrie also like to use a foam roller for simpler core work, as a stabilizing prop. Lying with your spine along it, circle each limb one at a time—you’ll challenge your core to keep you balanced.

It can also boost the Feel-Good Hormones

Incorporating a foam roller into your workout routine can help release endorphins, those feel-good hormones, in the body. What’s more, a foam roller can offer you the control to self-manage your pain, says Imrie, which can also leaves you feeling good.

(Related: 5 Happy Hormones And How Boost Them Naturally)

How to Shop for a Foam Roller

Foam rollers come in different textures, densities, and sizes. The most popular ones are smooth, with a medium density, and long in length, and are good for both rolling and incorporating into a workout.

Try one of these top-sellers:

foam roller benefits | best foam rollers | amazon foam rollerImage Credit: Amazon

If you want to roll-out and use it in your workout, try:

AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller, $36, amazon.ca

foam roller benefits | best foam rollers | b yoga foam rollerImage Credit: B Yoga

If you want to just roll-out, try:

The Release Roller, $48, byoganow.com

foam roller benefits | best foam rollers | walmart foam rollerImage Credit: Walmart

If you’re an athlete who just wants to tend to sore muscles, try:

GoZone 13″ Body Roller, Black Combo, $30, walmart.ca

Next, check out six ways to change up pandemic life.