How To Use A Foam Roller

Foam Rolling For Mobility

how to foam roll properly

Foam rolling has become very popular in recent years, but it has been around for decades. It can also be an effective tool for helping to mobilize your joints when done properly.

The most important thing you need to know about foam rolling is that it is not a fix all solution.

Foam rolling prepares your body to improve muscle flexibility by relaxing chronically tight muscles.

If a muscle is tight, or overactive, it will fight against any stretching you do for it. The foam roller can then be used to help relax the muscle tissue in order to prepare it for stretching techniques.

It is what you do after foam rolling that counts!


How To Use A Foam Roller Properly

Simply roll the foam roller up and down your muscles in a controlled manner to massage the muscle. This is a great way for beginners to start, as it is the least intense.

For a more effective self-myofascial release technique, attempt to crush your tissues lightly by rotating on them horizontally using controlled pressure. This will reach down to deeper tissues.

To properly break apart adhesions in your soft tissues, stop over points where you feel the most pain and relax the muscle into the object. Stay on it for at least 30 seconds at a time and breathe to let it relax. Then slowly continue rolling over the entire muscle.

If no tightness or pain is felt in a certain muscle, then either obtain a firmer tool or move on.


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Which Foam Roller Should I use?

Foam rolling is most effective with a smooth round object that can roll over your soft tissues, such as a stiff ball or cylinder.

Soft Choices for a Light Massage:

  • Basic Foam Roller
  • High-Density Foam Roller
  • Tennis Ball

Firm Choices for a Deep Massage:

  • 4-6″ PVC Pipe
  • Lacrosse Ball

Though softer objects should be used at first to decrease the intensity, the most effective way to roll out tissues is with an object harder than your soft tissues. If the object is not as firm as your tight soft tissues, then the object will break down and it limits the amount of tissue release you can obtain.

Your tight tissues can only be fully released with dense objects that can break apart the adhesions. This also will increase the intensity of the message so it should be utilized less frequently, similar to if you do high-intensity workloads when training it can break down tissues too much for them to recover before it occurs again.

When choosing your foam roller, make sure that you get one that does NOT have a bunch of spikes on it or pressure points. Though it may feel good, it is not nearly as useful as just getting a firmer object.

We want to smash over the muscle massaging everything, not just pinpoint it. That is what hand massages are for.

This massage breaks apart adhesions in the tissue layers, moves fluids through soft tissues and overall assists with recovery.

You can use this to aid in the mobility of tight tissues or just as a recovery technique.


How often can I use a foam roller?

You can roll out your tissues anytime, from before, during, or after training sessions or on non-training days. However, the same muscles should not be rolled out more than four times per week and often not multiple days in a row, to allow for recovery from the breakdown.


How long should foam rolling take?

At first, self-myofascial release may take a very long time due to multiple tight tissues. If it takes an hour, and you have time, let it take an hour.

Do not rush through this process!

Over time, as your tissues are released it will take less and less time.

If you have limited time, it is best to focus on the most important areas during the time you have. Set a timer if needed.


how to warm-up properly for strength training book Get Our Complete Warm-Up Guide!

Learn how to decrease pain, improve performance and prevent injury with mobility exercises specific to your workout!

Be ready for any workout in 15 minutes or less!

Learn More


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