Not sure what foam rollers are for? Or how to correctly use them?
Many people that I train own foam rollers and yet don’t fully understand their purpose or how to use them correctly. Most people don’t even know what a critical role they play in maintaining your fitness, injury prevention, and a body with less pain!
This video explain it for you, but I’ll recap the main points here for you as well…
Benefits of Foam Rolling
Foam rollers are used to apply direct pressure to help release trigger points (“knots”) in the muscles in order to get them back to normal length and function. These trigger points shorten the range of motion of a muscle – think of a rubber band tied in a knot in the middle – it can’t stretch as far or generate as much power.
Foam rolling helps release knots to keep your muscles operating in their full range of motion. This not only relieves current pain, but prevents future injuries. It also improves recovery time and reduces soreness after workouts and promotes blood circulation.
It’s also important to know that whether you feel knots or not, your muscles are probably more tight than you think. Which may be the cause of your back pain, hip pain, neck pain, etc. The more often you foam roll, the better you’ll feel, and will probably find that certain exercises become a bit easier.
It’s common to move quickly through the process of self-myofascial release (the technical name for foam rolling). That’s probably due to either a misunderstanding of how it works (you’re not literally supposed to simply roll up and down a few times) or because it can be rather painful to get to your body feeling better.
I often choose just one or two muscle groups a day to roll out, because it can take me anywhere from 2-10 minutes for just one big muscle group (i.e. hamstrings).
Proper Foam Rolling Technique
Applying pressure for 20-30 seconds in one spot will help to release trigger points. The key is staying in those spots to get the muscle to relax, not just rolling up and down your muscles. You’ll know where you need to pause by a tender feeling, or in some cases, intense pain.
Muscles take time to respond to relax, so whether it’s stretching or foam rolling, you MUST hold the position for at least 20 seconds to actually improve your flexibility and reduce pain.
When you foam roll, start at one end of the muscle and work your way down, and be sure to RELAX your muscles. Slowly roll until you find a tender spot – this may feel like a bruise or a knot. When you find these spots, hold it there 20 seconds or longer if needed. The pain should lessen after the first few seconds. You can also roll slightly up and down bigger knots to massage them out, but stay on the knot to maintain the pressure.
Check out the video for specific muscle groups and how to use the foam roller on them. Additional instruction for the back is below since I don’t go into much detail in the video:
- I don’t recommended to use a foam roller on your lower back. Lower back pain is usually caused by tight muscles somewhere else in your body, and this can come from poor posture, tight hips or hamstrings, and/or weak glute (butt) muscles. To protect your spine, avoid the lower back, but you can use the roller to stretch your upper back and/or roll out muscles around your shoulder blades and lats.
FYI, if you’re just starting out, try a blue or white foam roller. These are usually softest and easiest to start with. Once you get used to foam rolling, move to a black high density roller. Once that gets easy, I suggest one with bumps or spikes if you workout more regularly and need more of a deep-tissue massage.
Bonus tip: my favorite foam roller to use for general back stretching and IT band is a high density black foam roller. But the Spike Foam Roller is my favorite to really get into those other knots that impair my range of motion and create pain!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I’ll earn a commission if you shop through them, which helps me out a lot. Think of it as a tip for bringing you free fitness advice 😉 This does not affect the price of the product for you.