How to Use a Foam Roller

Maybe you’ve heard of using a foam roller before, or maybe you’ve even given it a try a time or two. Whether you’re a seasoned foam roller or a newbie to this technique, let this information guide you towards improved rolling and muscle healing!

What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) stretching technique used by many to decrease the muscle soreness that often follows exercise sessions. Some of the benefits achieved through rolling include:

  • Reduced muscle imbalances
  • Improved muscle relaxation
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Faster and more effective muscle recovery

*Some evidence suggests that when combined with your body weight, a foam roller can be as effective as a post-workout massage.

A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam. They are generally available in one and three foot lengths and are available in soft and high density foam. Note: The denser the athlete, the more dense the roller should be.

Recommended Muscle Groups
  • Calves
  • Thighs (Inner & Outer)
  • Hamstrings & Glutes
  • Hips
  • Buttocks
  • Lats & Back (Along the spine)

For those that have never tried foam rolling before, it may be awkward or a little painful at first. Just know that by focusing on proper positioning and consistency, you will become more comfortable—so stick with it!

How Does it Work?

The pressure you place on your muscles during the rolling technique aids in the release of fascia adhesions (connective tissue knots, which limit function and circulation of the muscles). Rolling will help to “untangle” these knots and stretch out the targeted muscles.

When to Foam Roll:

There is no definite timeframe on when to use, however, it is suggested to begin with using before and/or after a workout. Rolling before will aid in decreasing muscle density and promoting a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout may help the muscles to recover sooner and decrease soreness.

How to Foam Roll:

By slowly rolling onto the targeted area, you should be able to feel the most tender spot of the chosen muscle group. Using your arms for balance and support, hold on this spot while relaxing the targeted muscles for 30-90 seconds, while keeping your core stable. Relax your breathing to ensure your muscles are given your full attention. Once you feel the release of the connective tissue, slowly roll to a comfortable and neutral position, where you can safely stand or move onto the next muscle group as needed.

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KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Foam rolling is not appropriate for everyone—individuals with congestive heart failure, kidney failure, or any other organ failure, as well as, those with bleeding disorders, contagious skin conditions, severe physical injuries, should avoid this technique. If you are pregnant or nursing, please speak with your physician before foam rolling. If you have mobility issues and find it difficult to lie on the floor, please avoid this technique. If you have a medical issue, please seek the advice of your medical provider before engaging in foam rolling activities.
  • It is important to take your time to learn the proper techniques with foam rolling to prevent injury and to get the greatest benefit. Much like other physical activities, practice makes perfect and patience is key!
  • Fun fact: Similar to foam rolling, rolling a tennis ball under the ball and arch of your foot can help to ease foot pains!

 

Sources:

Clark, M. (n.d.). Self Myofascial Release Techniques. Retrieved from http://www.performbetter.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/PBOnePieceView?storeId=10151&catalogId=10751&pagename=91

Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24343353

Kuhland, J. (n.d.). What Is a Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, and Why Does It Hurt? Retrieved from http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/what-is-a-foam-roller-how-do-i-use-it-and-why-does-it-hurt

 

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