What’s a foam roller? Do I need one? Seems kind of lame if you ask me. —Greg P.
Foam rollers, who needs ’em, right?
YOU. You need one.
These strange-looking cylinders are a godsend for anyone who does any sort of physical activity, sits at a desk for more than 30 minutes a day, or has occasional aches and pains. Slide over the foam roller for about five minutes a day and you’ll feel like a new person. Shoulders tense from a tough day? Hit up the roller. Sleep weird and now your neck hurts? Go foam yourself. Oh yeah, and want to minimize the look of cellulite? Foam rolling might help with that, too. One small Brazilian study examined the effects of manual lymphatic drainage, a side effect of rolling, on the appearance of cellulite—and found that action shrunk hip circumference by a quarter of a centimeter; another concluded that massage decreased the appearance of cellulite.
How can a piece of foam have so many uses? It’s actually pretty simple. The shape of the roller helps you apply pressure to muscles and tendons in the body that are difficult to reach. This pressure is a form of gentle massage called myofascial release—the action of pressing firmly on a specific area so that the entire muscle releases and relaxes. The roller also stimulates the fascia, the layer of tissue that lies below the skin but above the muscles. When injured, damaged, or ripped, fascia can cause pain and injury. Rolling smoothes out and massages the fascia, bringing fresh blood and oxygen to the area to help it repair more quickly. It helps with muscle recovery, too. If you’re super sore after a hard workout, using the foam roller can help break up lactic acid in tender areas as well as increase circulation and healing in the area.
Basically, foam rolling is like a deep tissue massage you can do every day on your own—without spending hundreds of dollars.
Lauren Roxburgh, a celebrity trainer who literally wrote the book on how to use a foam roller correctly and safely, stopped by the Thrive Market yoga studio to school me in her favorite moves. Roxburgh’s L.A. gym specializes in foam rolling and myofascial release, and her clients range from NBA superstars to Goop’s chief creative officer. Her can’t-live-without-it move? The Upper Back Roll.
In this video, Roxburgh demonstrates exactly how to perform this stretch-massage combo move. If you’ve got super tight shoulders like me, it’ll feel intense—and definitely help you stand and look taller. Breathe into it and experiment. Try floating your arms back so your elbows are in line with your ear or extending your arms straight up toward the ceiling to change the way your weight falls on the roller.
Love the foam roller? Let us know in the comments below!