by Kris Pitcher
If you haven't gotten down on the ground and rolled yourself all over a foam roll you're missing out. There's a reason dogs and cats roll all around on the ground...it feels great! They're also using the dust to get bugs off of them, which incidentally isn't a part of this.
When we purchased ours we bought a long one and got out the serrated kitchen knife and cut it in half to make two. It was more cost effective than buying two short ones. Smart me.
Basically, you use your body weight to roll along the foam roll to do "self massage". In the fitness world we're using it for muscle activation (MA) and ART or active release therapy. It's used for soft tissue work of the muscles and tendons.
Using your body weight, you roll a muscle over the foam roll looking for trigger, or tender, points. Rolling decreases muscle density in that area allowing for increased blood flow.
Foam rolling is the poor man's massage. It is a great tool for using post workout as an addition to your stretching, or preworkout. But don't think this is a passive, feel good massage - it's work. You need to be able to get down on the floor and manage and manipulate your body weight over the roll.
Rolling over those trigger points, or tender spots can also be painful - especially at first. I've incorporated foam rolling following my quad workouts, and boy-howdy! That's painful! But I think it's changing the way I'm able to train, and the way my legs are responding.
Try one of the top three pieces of equipment in your routine with foam rolling. And now you know what that cylindrical tube-thing is at the gym.