If there was a fire and I could only take five items, my hypothetical list would include my foam roller. No kidding. It’s a fixture in our family room, getting more attention than our sofa. Some days I’ll watch an entire tv episode on my trusty roller, either rolling darn near every body part or camped on it along my spine to relax. It is a godsend as we continue to be active in our fifties, sixties and beyond.

Let me share with you why the roller is one of the greatest inventions, what type of roller to own, and how to use one.

What does the foam roller do?

The foam roller puts targeted pressure on your fascia, releasing trigger points where you’re feeling tightness or soreness and enables fascia movement. The fascia is the fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of our muscles, kind of like plastic wrap over meat. Without proper movement, fascia fibers become rigid and bind to our muscles and nerves, causing discomfort. Maybe you’ve heard the term myofascial release? That’s essentially what the foam roller does, just without the physical therapist or masseuse.

What are the benefits?

The most substantial benefit is that foam rolling decreases tightness and releases knots in muscles. As a result, it increases range of motion and flexibility. It’s also helpful for increasing blood flow and reducing stress. And all of that equates to one happy camper.

Will it hurt?

Maybe, but in a good way. Kind of like when your shoulders are tight and you talk your spouse into massaging them — deep tissue, not Swedish. When you use a foam roller, you don’t roll over your joints, only muscles. If your muscles are really tight, you will likely feel some discomfort as you roll, but the payoff is immense. Just breathe through it.

What kind of roller should I buy?

There are a variety of foam rollers on the market, with the variables being texture, size, density, color and brand. I’ve experimented with a bunch and now have a graveyard of rollers. My favorite is the j/fit High Density EVA Roller because it has a smoother texture and is not too hard, not too soft. The 36-inch length is optimal because it gives you plenty of room to roll and, when aligned with your spine, is plenty long to do the trick.

How do I learn how to roll?

There are a kazillion websites, books and videos that show how to roll, some better than others. Here are my go-to resources.

If you’re a visual learner, this YouTube video by Ashley Borden with LiveStrong is one of the better ones. I know she’s not yet north of fifty and a little too modelesque, but the instruction is good. I’ve listed the time marks for each body part for easy navigation.

Life is Great on a Foam Roller

00:40 – Quads

01:20 – IT Band (Iliotibial Band)

02:12 – TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae – front hip)

03:10 – Inner Thigh

04:30 – Piriformis (deep in the butt)

05:28 – Hamstrings

06:40 – Calves

07:50 – Shins

08:45 – Upper Back

10:05 – Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)

11:12 – Triceps

If you prefer a book, my go-to is The Melt Method by Sue Hitzmann. It provides comprehensive information, including detailed instruction, breathing techniques and visual guides.

Happy rolling!

Product links in this post are to assist readers. North of 52 receives no compensation for these products.

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1 Comment

  1. I love my roller, but I didn’t really know about all the ways to use it. I have used it for my quads and IT band because I jog. Thanks for the post. Ordering that book now.

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