Based on my experiences working with athletes, it seems like most athletes fall into one of two categories. There’s athletes that could spend hours foam rolling, and athletes who have never touched a foam roller. Neither of these athletes are gaining many benefits. When done correctly, foam rolling can act as a self-myofascial release technique and a tool to improve blood flow to muscles.
How Do I Foam Roll?
You can foam roll nearly every muscle in your body, though larger muscles are going to be much easier to roll effectively. When foam rolling, you want to set yourself up in a position where you are able to apply pressure to the muscle you are working on. Once set up, you’ll want to roll slowly up and down or side to side. You should be able to feel pressure on your muscles similar to a massage. You’ll need to reposition yourself occasionally when you find spots that feel more tight, tender or sore. Generally, you’ll want to stop at these tight spots and spend a little extra time here. You can also try stopping on a tight point or “trigger point”, apply pressure, then move your limb to help release the tightness. For example, if you were to roll out your calf and find a tight spot, stop there and apply pressure by crossing a leg over or pushing harder on the foam roller. Next you’ll want to point and flex your foot to help work out the knot or tight spot in your calf. This technique can be applied to many different areas of your body.
How Much Time Should I Spend Foam Rolling?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend hours foam rolling everyday. You should really only spend 30-120 seconds rolling out different body parts. If you spend too much time on one spot, you can actually cause more damage than good. A deep tissue masseuse doesn’t spend an entire session working on one spot on your thigh, typically they’ll work on your whole body or at least multiple different muscle groups. The same idea applies to foam rolling.
How Do I Decide What to Roll Out?
If you’re feeling sore or tight in certain areas, these are good spots to roll out. It’s also a great idea to roll out all your muscle groups consistently to help prevent additional tightness from developing. You’ll want to avoid rolling out any areas that feel like they might be injured, however, it can be helpful to roll out the surrounding areas to help alleviate tension on the injured spot. For example, if you feel some hip pain that is more than muscle soreness, you may want to avoid rolling out this area directly. You can roll out areas around it such as your low back, quads and hamstrings. Sometimes tight muscles surrounding an injured area can cause the pain to increase, so alleviating this can help!
How Often Should I Use a Foam Roller?
Once a day or a couple of times a week for 5-10 minutes is a great routine to get into when it comes to foam rolling. You don’t need a ton of time, but consistency is important. Don’t wait to roll out until you start feeling an injury developing; be proactive!