If anyone knows me, they know I’m a fan of the foam roller. If I had to write this blog in emojis, it would be filled with hearts and rainbows and unicorns and blushing smileys with jazz hands.
Being a physical therapist, coach and runner, I have witnessed it’s usefulness with my patients and athletes, as well as first hand. However, my general philosophy centers on research and the foam roller has that on it’s side too.
Let’s break down it down based on your specific goals:
GOAL: Improve workouts/performance
When to use it: before exercise
How it works: Foam rolling increases circulation to the muscles, allowing them to perform more optimally from the go. It also decreases perception of fatigue and pain, allowing for your body to complete longer, harder workouts. High five!
GOAL: Improve pliability of muscles
When to use it: before or after exercise
How it works: You may know that static stretching can hinder muscular performance. So what should you do to increase pre-exercise flexibility? Well, the foam roller increases joint range of motion and muscle length without this unwanted negative side effect.
Pro tip! Post-run, combine foam rolling and stretching to get double bang for your buck.
GOAL: Improve recovery
When to use it: after exercise
How it works: Foam rolling has shown to decrease DOMS, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as what makes you walk backward up stairs after a marathon. As a fun bonus, it reduces the time to full muscle recovery as well. Boom.
Here’s what you need to know to roll your way into better pre-hab, performance and recovery:
Need to Know Info
Type of foam roller: White: Low density || Blue: Medium density || Black: High density
…One with knobs and spikes all over it: torture device.
Research suggests that the higher the density the higher the benefit. So go ahead, Amazon Prime the black one and enjoy.
How long to roll: This is where the research is still developing. General consensus in the fitness world is a couple minutes on each muscle group.
Number one rule: Do not roll over a bony prominence or joint.
IT band: Please – do me (and your body) a favor and chill out on the IT band. This long tendon runs down the outside of your thigh and takes thousands of pounds to deform. The roller will not be friendly to this area in anyway.
Know that certain areas will be more sensitive than others; love your body, be easy as you begin and work your way into it. As your muscles and fascia (soft tissue surrounding muscles) respond and their ability to glide improves, the intensity will reduce.
In conclusion, I think we can all agree that foam rolling is a confetti explosion, prayer hands, dancing red dress lady emoji kind of tool.
If you have questions, reach out in the comments!
- Cheatham SW, Kolber MJ, Cain M, Lee M. The effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roll or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.2015;10(6):827-838.
- Healey KC, Hatfield DL, Blanpied P, Dorfman LR, Riebe D. The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(1):61-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182956569.
- Pearcey GE, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto JE, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Foam rolling for delayed onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of Athletic Training. 2015;50(1):5-13. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01.