How to correctly use a foam roller

in Workouts

So you’ve heard all the rage about foam rolling and you race out and pick one up yourself. You take it home, and unpack it…but what exactly is it?

What is foam rolling?

A foam roller is cylindrical in shape and is usually made from dense foam and can range in different sizes and textures. This allows you to apply pressure to your affected muscles using your body weight. Myofascial release is another word for foam rolling which is a technical term for self-massage to release trigger points or muscle soreness/tightness. 

Foam rolling before a workout can assist with warming up your muscles as well as increasing the range of motion in certain areas. Muscle soreness/tightness and inflammation can be relieved by foam rolling after a workout.

There are many ways to foam roll correctly... but also incorrectly.

female using a foam roller

DOs of foam rolling

Roll slowly

Not only is foam rolling too quickly ineffective, but it can also be harmful. Rolling slowly gives your muscles time to relax and adapt to the pressure. However, you do not want to foam roll too slowly as too much time on a sore spot can harm the tissue or cause nerve damage. While your body may be hurting and it might feel better to roll quickly back and forth, your muscles won't actually be feeling the effect.

Drink water after rolling

It is super important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water after foam rolling. Dehydrated muscles can do more harm than good. Drinking water after foam rolling can help to assist with cleansing your body of toxins and aid the recovery process.

Roll when you are sore

Although this will be painful, foam rolling when you are sore can be beneficial. Massaging sore muscles can increase blood flow and oxygen to the tissue which can aid the healing process. Once finished foam rolling, your pain level may have lessened. 

DONTs of foam rolling

Roll on an injured area

Despite the fact that we are told to foam roll when you are sore or areas that are more tense, you do not want to be rolling on an injured area. Foam rolling directly on the injured area can aggravate the area and cause more inflammation, which in turn, will create more tension. It is better to slowly foam roll above and below the injured area and avoid the actual area itself until the pain subsides on its own. 

Roll directly on your lower back

It is not recommended that you use a foam roller directly on your lower back as there are no structures to protect the spine or other important organs from pressure. This also puts your lower back into an unnatural position which can potentially aggravate the spine and any other lower back issues you may already have. Try foam rolling on your glutes, hamstrings and hip flexor muscles as tightness in these areas can sometimes contribute to lower back pain and will alleviate the pain rather than make it worse.

Roll your IT band

Your IT band (also known as the iliotibial band, iliotibial tract or Maissiat's band) is a long piece of connective tissue/fascia that runs along the outside of your leg from the hip to the knee and shinbone. The IT band is not a muscle and will be a waste of time if you try to roll it out as it will not contract, therefore you cannot “relax” it. It is best to roll out your muscles rather than your ligaments like your IT band. Similar to the lower back, it is best to foam roll muscles around your IT band such as quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Always remember to wait 24-48 hours between foam-rolling sessions. Your body needs time to recover. Enjoy!