When it comes to toning up and sculpting your body, it’s unlikely that foam rolling would be the first thing that comes to mind.
Yet, this practice of self-myofascial (or “self-massage”) release has found itself in every A-lister’s fitness programme, from Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio to American reality TV star Khloe Kardashian.
Even leading Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan – touting foam rolling to be the key to longer, leaner muscles and other health benefits.
So what exactly is foam rolling?
Think of it as a rehabilitating massage that goes beyond the static stretch.
Carried out using a cylindrical tube (which is usually designed with alternating smooth and bumpy surfaces), this stretching exercise helps relieve tense muscles caused by a hard day’s work.
It works by loosening up the fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle and is responsible for aches, stiffness, and knots.
Used for active recovery, foam rolling is the underused key to maximising the results of your time spent at the gym, helping you train harder, recover faster, and reduce the chances of injury.
So let’s discover how celebrities use foam rolling to achieve their slender physique, and the five reasons why you need to incorporate it into your fitness regimen stat.
1. It relieves sore muscles
There’s nothing more difficult that trying to power through your workout with aching muscles from the previous day’s training.
Foam rolling is the perfect remedy, as it encourages deeper muscle activation and trigger-point release, improving blood circulation that in turn speeds up the recovery process.
Kardashian’s foam roller of choice? The HyperIce Vyper 2, boasting a vibration technology for maximum efficiency.
“I’m all for stretching before and after a workout and [the HyperIce Vyper 2] is one of my favourite things,” Kardashian revealed in her Snapchat one “running day” that left her with sore legs.
“I think any foam roller is great, but this one is super cool because it vibrates so it gets into your muscles even more, and it really loosens everything up.”
2. It improves your flexibility
When muscles are tight, your range of motion is restricted, making it harder and more painful to perform your exercises with optimum mobility.
Actress Reese Witherspoon’s trainer, Ashley Borden, calls this “improper muscle firing” and encourages releasing the myofascial system to help muscles become longer and looser.
“[Rolling out] warms up the muscles and increases flexibility by breaking down adhesions between muscle fibres and allowing more blood to pump through your body, thereby increasing your metabolic rate,” she says.
You can foam-roll almost every part of your body, from the spine and posterior shoulder to hamstrings and quadriceps.
3. It intensifies your workout
Foam rolling isn’t just for recovery – it can take your exercise up a notch and help you burn extra calories, too.
Take a cue from Ambrosio, whose trainer El Hadj incorporates leg pulls, rolling planks, and limb extensions on a roller into her training sessions.
“Using a foam roller during your workout to create an unstable surface increases the intensity of each exercise because your muscles have to work harder to maintain balance,” Hadj tells Women’s Health. “Your entire body has to be fully engaged, particularly the core, to stop yourself from falling over, so each move becomes more challenging.”
4. It smooths out cellulite
Cellulite’s dimply appearance is caused by the accumulation of toxins and fat deposits pushing through weak connective tissue, which is why foam rolling works a treat in smoothening it out with its massaging effects.
Paltrow is an advocate, crediting alignment and body mechanics specialist Lauren Roxburgh for helping to streamline her body.
“[Foam-roller moves] help liquefy and smooth away congestion, flush out and boost the lymphatic system, increase immunity, stimulate blood circulation, ‘wring out’ and hydrate the connective tissue and revitalise the whole being, all of which will help banish those pesky dimples forever,” Roxburgh writes on Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop, adding that all it takes is 20 to 30 minutes a day to achieve smooth results.
For a foam roller that specifically targets cellulite, try Roxburgh’s LoRox Aligned Foam Roller, which she developed to provide “just the right firmness and a specialised bumpy surface for reducing cellulite and blood congestion, boosting tissue hydration”.
5. It’s travel-friendly
The foam roller has come a long way since its bulky, cumbersome days.
There are now numerous compact options available on the market that are perfectly portable, allowing you to take them wherever you go, whether it’s the local gym or an overseas holiday. Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose star-studded clientele includes Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie, particularly loves the Morph Collapsible Foam Roller.
It can be tucked into a flat, rectangular shape small enough to slip into a backpack, but offers industry-standard benefits when expanded, revealing little “nubs” designed to gently knead tight knots and flush out toxins.
We won’t say no to travelling with a personal masseuse 24/7!.