The foam roller may seem a bit intimidating to a fitness newbie, but the sooner you incorporate one into your routine, the better off your achy muscles will be. Why? Because, no matter what your exercise of choice is, these little suckers aid in injury prevention, release muscles tension, speed up recovery time and can even boost your performance.
While foam rollers are fairly cheap, all those benefits come with a price. Foam rolling — also called myofascial release — can be painful, but luckily you don't need to spend too much time doing it. Five or 10 minutes gets the job done. Use it to warm and loosen up your muscles, and improve blood circulation before a workout or cool down afterward to release toxins.
Julz Arney, ACE-certified group fitness instructor, lists some guidelines for getting the safest and best results from foam rolling:
Foam rollers come in a variety of densities but are usually color-coded according to the level of firmness — white is the softest and best for sensitive areas; blue or green rollers are usually medium density; and black is usually the firmest, best for deeper muscles groups like hamstring or glutes. If you are new to foam rolling, it’s better to start out with the softest one. There are now products on the market, like The Grid, that include a variety of density levels in one roller.
Massage balls are effective companions to the foam roller. They can really dig into those problematic knots, and because of their size and shape, can get to hard-to-reach areas like the hips.