What is this fantastic yet simple tool?
It's called a foam roller! It's not a complicated piece of gym equipment, that's for sure, in fact it looks like just a giant rolling pin made of foam. Actually, it IS a giant rolling pin made of foam. Here's a picture:
Pre-Workout Rolling- That's right, you can foam roll pre-workout! Unlike static stretching, there isn't the risk of tearing or over-stretching your muscles when they're still cold. In fact, foam rolling is a great way to warm muscles up, and decrease muscle density (a fancy term for priming them to be used). I usually don't foam-roll pre-workout, but I have when I've felt particularly stiff in my hamstrings or hips, and the rolling loosened me right up. This thing will prime you, prep you, loosen you up, and help to prevent injuries during your workout (unlike static stretching, which could actually CAUSE them.) Try it out!
Post-Workout Rolling- After that amazingly tough workout there's no doubt your muscles will be tired, tight, and sore. Foam roller to the rescue! On many occasions, especially when I'm dealing with small hip and leg injuries, I static stretch AND foam roll problem spots after my workout. I can't tell you how big a difference this giant poofy rolling pin has made for my legs. My hamstrings have gone from immovable iron rods to loose, greased tendons, with a lot of thanks going to this blue wonder worker.
And there's one more BIG benefit of foam rolling after that workout of yours. It helps to removes toxins from your muscles that might have built up, like perhaps....lactic acid? That's right, the chemical that makes you so sore come the following morning. By rolling around on a foam roller for a few minutes after your workout you can basically knead the lactic acid out of your muscles and therefore speed up recovery. You'll also help blood flow throughout the muscle, and that can do all sorts of good for you, like increased nutrient absorption. It's really amazing how such a simple tool can do so much.
So get yourself foam rolling! Most gyms these days are equipped with foam rollers, and if they're not don't despair, these things are only like 20 bucks at Walmart. And believe me, they're worth it. Try it out!
And did you think I was just going to leave you with that lame explanation on how to actually use a foam roller! HAH! Fat chance. Here's a great video explaining different rolling techniques.
Love the roller, keep loose, and as always, good luck!