Foam Rolling 101

Ever heard of foam rolling? It’s a myofascial release technique that you can do on your own. All you need is a foam roller, which you can purchase in many places these days. Then, once you have it, all you have to do is follow a video, or learn how to do some exercises on your own, which we’ll cover in this article. Foam rolling is a really beneficial healing technique that you should definitely incorporate into your exercise regimen. So, let’s find out what it is, how it can benefit you, and some tried and true exercises to do at home. 

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a technique that works to release the fascia in your body. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to spend much money by attending a myofascial release session or getting a deep tissue massage with a professional. You can receive many of the same benefits by learning how to do foam rolling at home.  You’ll need to purchase myofascial balls and a foam roller, which are reasonably priced and widely available. 

Loads of videos exist online that will teach you all the foam rolling myofascial release techniques you need to know. And the cool thing is, you can target different areas of the body. You can roll for 3 minutes or 30! All the self-care you need is at your fingertips! You may want to integrate foam rolling to your routine by doing 5 minutes before your workout, and 10 minutes after your workout. Foam rolling is a great way to prevent muscle pain after an intense workout, as well as a relaxing way to cool down. 

Choosing a foam roller

When purchasing a foam roller, you’ll want to know a few things. This roller, made of a kind of thick foam, comes in different sizes, and also different shapes and firmness. You’ll want to choose between foam balls, smooth rollers, textured rollers, and foam massage sticks. Foam balls are great for alleviating knots and tight muscles in the shoulder area, as well as for targeting specific areas in the body. Smooth rollers are ideal for beginners, and those who want to spend less money. Textured rollers are great for reaching deep knots and super tight areas that need breaking up. Massage sticks covered in foam are ideal if you want to target the leg muscles, as well as the upper back. You may want to do your own research, or experiment with them before investing in the one that’s right for you. 

What are the benefits of foam rolling?

Foam rolling has so many health benefits. It's great for your body, and even your mind. Let’s take a look at some of them. 

  • Reduce muscle soreness and pain

Foam rolling may help reduce muscle pain because it eases inflammation in your muscles. Even studies suggest this to be true. A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training studied eight men who practiced foam rolling after exercising. These men experienced less muscle soreness and faster recovery post-workout. If you’re prone to muscle soreness after working out, it’s definitely worth giving foam rolling a try after your workout.  

  • Helps with back pain

Foam rolling may also help with back pain. This study, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science suggests this myofascial release technique to be beneficial for alleviating back pain while also relieving tension. It’s important to go slow, however, as the back can be sensitive to foam rolling. Be attentive to your body and take it easy as you roll this area. 

  • Supports healthy range of motion

Your range of motion is an important aspect of your physical health. You need to have a healthy range of motion to maintain flexibility as you get older. You also need a good range of motion to optimally perform any physical movement. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Therapy suggests there might be a link between foam rolling and increased range of motion. 

  • Supports self-healing

Did you know that your body is magnificently intelligent? It has innate healing mechanisms we often forget about. And foam rolling may help support these healing powers. A study published inThe Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, suggests that foam rolling may very well be beneficial in this regard.

  • Supports feelings of well being and relaxation

If you’ve ever done this self-myofascial release technique, you know just how relaxing it can be, especially after you’ve finished. Because it can be intense, you’ll find yourself breathing deeply as you work into the deep tissues of your body. This deep breathing helps the body (and mind) drop into a state of relaxation. States of relaxation naturally ensue as we open tight muscles and tissues. Studies like this one suggest foam rolling may indeed increase feelings of relaxation.

Foam rolling tips and tricks

A few things to consider as you begin this myofascial release technique are:

  • Start slow. 

Foam rolling is typically painful at the start. Over time, your muscles and tissues will relax into the intense pressure you’re applying. So begin with short sessions—10 to 20 seconds is fine—especially for tender areas. Then work up to a minute. Before long, you’ll be doing full body foam rolling sessions that last between 15 and 30 minutes. But, take baby steps to begin so as not to cause too much pain or even injury.

  • Stay hydrated

You’ll want to make sure you drink plenty of water before and after a foam rolling session. Your muscles and tissues need water for healing and recovery. So, drink up!

  • Don’t apply a lot of pressure at first

When you first begin, start with light pressure. Your body weight is what dictates how much pressure you use as you roll. You’ll learn how to adjust the pressure in various ways as you roll different parts of the body. 

6 foam rolling techniques to help reduce bodily pain and stress 

Foam rolling can be fun and effective. Work out those tight areas with these effective foam rolling moves!

Hip Flexor Rolling

Your hip flexors need lots of love, especially if you’re sitting for much of the day. Rolling them on a regular basis will loosen up their connectives tissues and muscles. Simply get into a forearm plank position and place the foam roller below your right hip flexor. As you do this, your left leg is bent out to the side in a comfortable manner. Gradually roll along the right hip flexor. Go up and down and side to side. Place the appropriate pressure to each tight spot. Go slow and breathe. Switch sides.

Roll Your Calves

Our calves are really prone to getting tight. Roll them regularly to loosen those muscles. Sit down and place the foam roller beneath your calves. With your arms, lift your body up so that all your weight is on the roller. Slowly roll up and down both calves, or do one at a time by crossing one leg over the other. Breathe deeply.

IT Band Rolling

Your IT band, which runs from the knee to the outer hip, needs regular attention. Foam rolling is an excellent way to give it that. Simply lie on your side and place the foam roller beneath your right IT band. Roll the area gently, while breathing deeply. If you feel tender in spots, that’s normal. Just stop, and work the area with less pressure or stop completely and move on to another area. Switch sides. 

Roll Those Hamstrings

How often do we give our hamstrings the love they need? They’re an often overlooked part of the body. Simply sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Place the foam roller beneath your hamstrings and begin to roll up and down them gently. Ease up with the pressure when and if you hit tender spots. 

Quadriceps Rolling

Your quads are really large muscles. As such, they need rolling on a regular basis. Get back into that forearm plank position, and place the foam roller under the quads. Using your core, arm, and shoulder strength, lift yourself up and roll along the quads with as little or as much pressure as you need. Go slow, as this area is typically quite tight. With time, the quads will open, and the rolling of this area will become less painful. 

Roll Your Lower Back

Most of us get tight in the lower back, especially with age, and especially if we’re getting into certain activities like bike riding long distances in which we’re moving our bodies in different ways. Rolling the lower back is an excellent way to help prevent back pain and reduce back pain if we have it. Simply lie on your back and and place the foam roller beneath your lower back. Roll up and down ever so gently as you breathe deeply. This area can be sensitive so take it slow. 

As you can see, foam rolling is really fun, and the possibilities to open your body are endless. Have a great time adding these exercises into your exercise routine. And, don’t forget to breathe!