When foam rollers first came out, I looked at them like any other fad. “Nice toy. I’ll pass.” But when I tried rolling, I learned how useful it can be, and now rollers are standard equipment in practically every gym. They can actually help you gain muscle, too. In fact, five to 10 minutes of rolling before workouts can accelerate the “gain train” before you even lift a weight.

Rolling creates pressure in the muscles, forcing them to relax and ultimately drawing blood into the area, warming them up. When your muscles are warm, they generate more force and move more weight. Rolling can reduce the risk of injury, too. Warm, pliable muscles are less likely to be overstretched.

Before any workout, spend time rolling out the whole body, with particular attention to the IT bands (on your outer thighs), hamstrings, glutes, and upper back. Use a lacrosse ball or other small object to work on areas such as the shoulders, pecs, and hips. When you come to a sore spot, hold it until it releases—or until you can’t stand the pain anymore. As you loosen up, it’ll hurt less.