Foam rolling has become increasingly popular over recent years, and foam rollers can be found in almost any gym or physical therapy clinic in the United States. Research has suggested that it may help reduce fatigue, improve flexibility, reduce soreness and may even help decrease arterial stiffness. Although the quality of these individual studies can be debated, many athletes, therapists, and athletic trainers swear by foam rolling.
Here are a few tips to consider before getting started.
Safety: Although foam rolling is safe for most people, individuals who have issues with decreased bone density or are prone to fractures should consult with their doctor prior to trying a foam roller.
Density: Make sure you find the right firmness, especially if you are new to rolling. Individuals who are smaller or sensitive to pressure should start with a lower density roll. Heavier individuals may need one that is more dense.
Where: Common areas to focus on are the iliotibial band, hamstrings, upper back, and calf muscles. Avoid rolling over the low back and use common sense over sensitive areas. Check out our tutorial on foam rolling your IT bands.
When: Foam rolling can be performed before or after exercise, and may augment the benefits of stretching. Athletes and weight lifters often benefit from using a foam roll to help resolve post exercise muscle soreness.
Techniques: You can try... 1) rolling back and forth over a tight area, 2) keeping the roll stationary and applying sustained pressure over a knot or trigger point or 3) use a “pin and stretch” technique where the foam roll stays stationary on a tight area while you actively move a body part through a functional movement pattern.
Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy in OrthoCarolina's Ballantyne o ff