Basically, it's all about massaging specific parts of the body and easing out the knots that form in tight muscles. It has the advantage over a sports massage in that you can tell exactly where those knots are by how it feels as you're doing it.
It's lauded for its ability to help with recovery after a workout but it's also great for prepping before one too. The rolling motion improves circulation, breaks down the knots in muscles that can limit range of motion and preps muscles for stretching.
A study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that rolling out for just a minute can improve your range of motion. As a rule of thumb, it should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you're done, it should feel better.
To give it a whirl, you need to lie on the ground with the foam roller between yourself and the floor, and then roll your body over the top of it. Good spots to try it on are the calves, iliotibial band (outer thighs), piriformis (buttocks), hamstrings (back of the thighs), back and shoulders.
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