If you’ve never used a foam roller, these tips will help you get started.
If you’re a foam rolling gangsta from way back, these tips just might point out some mistakes you’ve been making. At the very least, they’ll be a good refresher on proper foam rolling technique.
I’ll start by addressing the first question everyone asks: “What kind of foam roller should I use?”
1. You don’t need a fancy roller.
Don’t waste your money.
A cheap, high-density foam roller with a 6 inch diameter will be just fine. Doesn’t matter what length.
Another option is a lacrosse ball. They’re around $3. I use one on certain muscles for a more targeted effect. These can be painful, so if you’re just starting out, you might want to stick with the foam roller.
A third option is a PVC pipe (6 inch diameter), but that also might be too much pressure starting out. Although, I’ve seen homemade PVC pipe foam rollers with cushioning attached to the outside.
2. Don’t roll everything.
A common mistake is to “grab a foam roller, and just roll away, buddy.” But this isn’t necessary, and could do more harm than good.
Instead, just roll over the muscles that feel tight, or where you know you need a little more mobility/flexibility.
A little experimenting should make it obvious which spots are tighter than others. You’ll feel it. If you can’t feel it, you probably don’t need to be rolling there.
3. Don’t roll too fast.
Rushing through this can be ineffective, and more painful.
A good rule is to move the foam roller at a speed of about one inch per second.
If you move too quickly from one body part to the next, you won’t feel the same benefit as when you take your time and do it right. Plus, you want to really find those tender spots. Which brings me to my next tip…
4. Stay on the trigger points.
If you’ve used a foam roller before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is a spot that is more tender than the rest of the muscle. Sometimes it can feel quite painful.
When you reach a spot like this, stop moving the foam roller and stay on that trigger point for a full 30 seconds. Some people might need to go longer, but do at least 30 seconds. Don’t wimp out after 25.
While you hold this position, try to stay relaxed. Breathe deeply.
And make sure you’re not on a bone, or a nerve, that’s causing the pain.
5. Relax the muscle you’re rolling.
Rolling over a flexed muscle won’t do you any good.
However, a good way to relax your muscle is by flexing the opposing muscle (biceps/triceps, quads/hamstrings).
A couple less obvious examples would be to flex your butt while rolling your hip flexors. Or when you roll your calves, flex the front of your lower leg (imagine trying to touch the top of your foot to your shin).
As long as the muscle you’re rolling is relaxed, that’s the main thing to remember.
6. Keep it short.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on a foam roller, start by rolling one muscle you feel needs it most, either before or after your workout. This will only add about a minute to your routine.
Even if you do want to spend a little more time on it, I suggest picking one or two muscles from your upper and lower body to work on for a few weeks and see if you feel like it helps. You can change it up next month. By doing it this way you’ll learn what is most effective for you.
7. Don’t skip it!
Maybe you’re like me — I used to hate the idea of foam rolling. So I never did it.
It wasn’t until my lack of mobility started to cause me physical pain that I committed to working on it for a couple months. And it made a massive difference.
Foam rolling is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s not a one step, quick fix. But I believe you’ll feel so much better once you’ve been doing it for awhile. It’s worth your time.
Don’t know where to start? Send me an email, and I’ll help you figure it out.