Foam Rolling: Why it’s One Piece of Equipment You May Actually Want to Invest in

Ah, foam rolling. Hurts so good.

By: Ilyse Rogozenski

Exercising has many benefits and you’ve probably already noticed how much better you feel since you started. Of course, you’ve probably also noticed some soreness in your muscles. That’s normal and, in fact, a good thing. The soreness means your muscles are working in ways that challenges them and helps them grow and get stronger. Stretching certainly helps, but foam rolling may help more.

What is foam rolling?

The roller itself is cylinder-shaped and is often made from tightly packed foam. Foam rolling is done with the roller on the floor while you “roll” your problem muscles up and down the roller. Your back, quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips can all get relief from doing this. When foam rolling, it should be done slowly and deliberately making sure to spend enough time on the muscles that hurt. Fair warning—foam rolling can be a bit painful. After all, you are rolling a hard object over some very achy muscles. But don’t worry. Your body does get used to it, and the results are definitely worth it.

How does it work?

Some refer to foam rolling as a form of myofascial release. Fascia is the connective tissue that stabilizes and binds your muscles. When you foam roll or massage these muscles, you undo the knots that cause muscle tightness. You can also increase your range of motion and boost blood circulation. While the jury is still out on whether or not foam rolling can actually do all of this, it certainly, at the least, can help your sore muscles loosen up a bit.

What kind of foam roller should you use?

Foam rollers come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are smooth while some have small raised bumps on them that are useful for working on specific spots on your body. An effective foam roller should be very firm. Ones that are too soft won’t do much good.

How should you foam roll?

The foam roller should always be on the floor when you use it. Depending on which muscles are the tightest, that’s where your focus should be when you begin. For example, if your quadriceps are feeling tight from doing lots of squats and lunges, you’re going to place them over the foam roller, put your hands on the floor in a push up position and then rock your body back and forth so that the foam roller goes up and down your quads. Do not rush this. You want to go slowly for a few minutes. If you find a spot that’s particularly knotty, roll over it for a good twenty to thirty seconds.

You can foam roll your upper, middle and lower back. You can foam roll your iliotibial (IT) band, your hamstrings, and your calves. One part of your body that you should be careful about foam rolling is your neck. You may cause more harm than good if you have neck issues like herniated discs. Check with your doctor before you attempt any rolling on this part of your body.

When should you foam roll?

Foam rolling can be done before your workout, after your workout or both. Some people like to do it before they go to sleep, so they don’t wake up with tight muscles, while some like to foam roll upon waking to loosen up their muscles.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you exercise a lot and start to feel significant soreness, you should add foam rolling to your routine. Doing it a few times a week will be very beneficial. And if you need instructions on how to foam roll correctly, FitOn can guide you through some basic foam roller exercises that are sure to help you feel better so you can come back strong, not sore, on your next workout!