Foam rolling is the use of a foam roller (or even a tennis ball) to perform a 'poor mans deep tissue massage'.
What are the benefits?
Foam rolling has many benefits. By using a foam roller before a workout, you're more likely to reduce the result of muscle soreness after the workout. This is due to the muscles density decreasing and promoting a better warm up.
Foam rolling after a workout helps with the removal of lactic acid, plus it breaks down any scar tissues and releases any knots.
Other benefits include: preventing injury; promoting recovery; improvement of flexibility; and reducing spending out on deep tissue/sports massages!
So should I foam roll before or after exercise? Recent studies have shown it is better to roll before a workout, but if after the workout you are feeling sore, foam roll again.
How do I use them?
Slowly! The recommended roll is one inch per second and no faster. Do not use your arms to help support you; let your full body weight sink down onto the roller - this way it gets in deeply to the muscles.
If you find a spot that is particularly tight, roll over the spot for no longer than 60 seconds then move on.
Does it hurt?
It can, yes - you're digging deep into the muscles to help break down any lactic acid, scar tissues and knots. So you may come away feeling a little bruised, but that won't last as long as DOMS will!
In the long run, the minor pain from foam rolling outweighs the pain of DOMS for the following few days. A no-brainer, really.