Foam rolling has been used by physical therapists since the 1980s, but it’s recently become a hot trend in the fitness community – and everyone’s doing it, from pro athletes to occasional gymgoers. You’ve probably even seen our members using foam rollers at your club. So what gives—is foam rolling worth your time? How do you do it properly? And should it actually hurt? We’ll answer these questions and more—let’s get things rolling.


What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a form of self-Myofascial Release. Fascia is connective tissue that runs all through your body, surrounding your organs, muscles and nerves. Fascia sometimes sticks together due to a lack of movement (sitting in an office chair all day) or being continually overloaded (overtraining). We usually call these “knots” we need to work out. Foam rolling releases your fascia to improve your mobility and help you feel better overall.

 

How do I foam roll?

Start on the ground with the roller beneath you. You can foam roll any major muscle groups including your upper back, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Use as much or as little pressure as feels comfortable for you (and read “Should foam rolling hurt?” below to learn what to do if it doesn’t feel great!).

 

We asked Andy Franco, Product Manager for group training and the creator of Team Training at In-Shape, for her insights on foam rolling.

 

 “If you’re foam rolling before a workout, keep it nice and quick—spend 15 to 30 seconds rolling each area. If you’re foam rolling for recovery, work in ranges of 1-2 minutes.”

 

Start by simply rolling using a small amount of pressure. Even resting on top of the roller can help! If you find a spot that feels tight or tender, maintain pressure for a few seconds to give your body time to relax, then try spanning—moving side to side on that spot, or scrubbing—a more localized combination of pressure and friction. Remember to always listen to your body. A great way to start is to ask a Trainer to show you!

 foam rolling group

 

Should foam rolling hurt?

Mostly no. “If your pain range is a scale of 1-10, you should be around a 5 or 6,” Andy says. “You should feel it, but still be able to control and manage it. If you find a sensitive spot, congratulations! You found something that needs work.”

 

When you reach a certain threshold of pain, your body won’t be able to relax enough to allow the fascia to release. “I need you to show me you can breathe. If you’re grimacing and can’t breathe full long belly breaths, your body won’t recover in that state.”

 

If the pain is too intense even when using very light pressure, Andy suggests picking up your foam roller and using it against a wall. It’s also important to note that foam rolling is not a strategy for long-term mobility improvement. While it’s great for its short-term, immediate effects, you’ll want to follow up with static stretching to see even more benefits.

 

When is the best time to foam roll?

Foam rolling is usually talked about as a recovery tool, but it’s also great to foam roll before or even within a workout. Rolling before working out will help “wake up” your muscles, but foam rolling is famous for post-workout recovery benefits. So, which is better, foam rolling before or after your workout? If Andy had to choose, she prefers pre-workout rolling, but emphasizes that the best time to foam roll is whenever you’ll realistically do it.

 

“Something is better than nothing. Whenever you can implement it into your daily life.”

 

 

You can find foam rollers in all of our In-Shape clubs, so what are you waiting for? Come in and give it a try or ask one of our Trainers to show you how. You’re ready to rock and (foam) roll!