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Woman using a foam roller in the gym.

5 reasons to use a foam roller

Foam rollers often fly under the radar in the world of fitness equipment, but if you have never used one, you are missing out. According to Lauren Jeffrey, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, NASM PT, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center, foam rollers can help you:

  1. Decrease muscle pain
  2. Improve blood circulation
  3. Maximize flexibility
  4. Minimize muscle soreness that often follows an intense workout
  5. Reduce muscle tension

Foam roll away muscle knots

“Foam rollers work by attacking trigger points — often referred to as ‘knots’ — within the muscle that have formed from things such as bad posture, muscular injury or simply working out,” says Jeffrey. “These trigger points cause tension and pain, and inhibit normal function of the muscles. Naturally, when these trigger points are minimalized or eliminated, the muscles relax, pain is reduced and normal function returns.”

Get better results from strength training

“To get the most out of a strength training workout, it is important that the muscles are flexible and working properly,” she says. “It is best to roll immediately after a workout while the muscles are still warm and to end with static stretching.”

How to choose the right foam roller for you

Foam rolling can be uncomfortable, she cautions, especially when rolling muscles such as the hamstrings or the iliotibial (IT) band, but the benefits usually outweigh the discomfort. To minimize discomfort, choose the right roller for your needs.

“Rollers come in a variety of firmness levels. Also, some are smooth and some have ridges,” explains Jeffrey. “The firmer the roller and the bigger the ridges, the harder it will attack the trigger points, but the more uncomfortable it will be to use. Those who are just starting out should begin with a gentler one and work their way up to the rougher ones.”

Check out more fitness tips from Living Better experts.

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