The Four Ts of Foam Rolling: Tips, To-Dos, To-Don’ts, and Tools
By Deb Siewing
First, let’s address a common question we hear from new members:
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is the use of a foam roller to self-massage your muscles. This is also called self-myofascial release, which can relax tight muscles, ease muscle soreness, improve mobility, and aid in muscle recovery.
Taking care of our bodies can be a full-time job, which can leave our muscles working overtime. Whether lifting weights or performing everyday activities, taking some time for a self-massage can be beneficial, and the foam roller just might become your best friend!
Whether warming up before a workout or recovering after a run, I personally experience the benefits of foam rolling every day. Here are my tips, to-dos, to-don’ts, and tools that you may find helpful:
Foam rollers vary in firmness, size, and texture. When purchasing a foam roller, you may want to consider the following:
If you are new to foam rolling or your muscles are tender and sore, I recommend a medium-to-firm density roller. These are usually a solid, filled roller like the one pictured here (instead of the hollow and harder version you’ll also see in stores, which often comes ridged or bumped).
Sizes vary from 18-inch, to 24-inch, to 36-inch. (I prefer the medium size because it’s small enough to travel with me, yet big enough to work my back and shoulders.)
Begin your foam-rolling routine with a smooth-surface roller instead of the bumped version.
Use the extra-firm hollow version with ridges or bumps for more trigger-point or tougher-to-release areas.
TO-DO’S and TO-DON’TS
The goal of self-massage is to get the muscle to relax, release tension and knots, and loosen fascia (the thin fibrous tissue enclosing your muscles). So, when foam rolling:
Do spend the time. It is recommended that you slowly roll the area for at least 30-60 seconds. Foam rolling is not a race or an AMRAP (As Many Rolls As Possible), so don’t go too quickly. You want time for your muscle to relax, not stay tense.
Don’t roll directly on an injured or inflamed area. Do focus on rolling the surrounding muscles. So, for example, if your IT Band is very sore, roll the glutes and hip area instead.
Find a hot spot or knot? Do give some time to allow the muscle to relax and gently roll back and forth but Don’t apply excessive pressure that may cause pain.
Like I mentioned above, the foam roller is available in a variety of sizes, densities, and surfaces.
But there are several similar tools available to aid in your muscle recovery:
Pro-Tec Spiky Ball: great for getting the blood flowing in the foot (plantar fasciitis) and calf area.
Addaday Roller Ball: rolling massage ball on a flat bottom that allows it to stay in place whether using on the floor or a wall.
Addaday Rolling Gear Stick: great travel companion, and the stick allows you to apply more pressure than just body weight.
Lacrosse Ball or Orb: both allow you to get a bit deeper than a foam roller and pinpoint hot spots.
Personally, I prefer foam rolling for big areas (like the upper back, lats, quads, and glutes) and the stick or lacrosse ball for smaller areas or areas where I want to apply more pressure or get a bit deeper (usually my calves and piriformis). I find the lacrosse ball works wonders for mobility in the shoulder area, too.