4 Simple steps to using a Foam Roller
Foam rolling has become a very popular modality for physical self care in the fitness world. Whenever I go to the gym I see multiple people rolling out in the corner of the gym regardless of the time of day. I usually watch for a few seconds before I move on to my workout. I see some people foam rolling properly but I also see many who do not. This guide is to help beginners gain their bearings and to help experienced rollers deepen their practice.
I am an Acupuncturist and a personal trainer. Foam rolling is an important tool that I give my clients to help them on their path to recovery when they are not in my office. Today I am going to share with you the tips I have learned over the years.
Foam rolling 101
Less is more. Often times a first-time user of foam rolling will try to undo years of tightness in one session. This creates far too much strain on the muscles and fascia and can create an inflammatory response. Start light and apply pressure to areas of soreness for a short amount of time, 30 seconds at the most. Use light pressure making sure that you are bracing your body against the floor so that a limited amount of body weight is pressing into the foam roller. As you become more practiced with a foam roller you can gradually increase that pressure.
When foam rolling a feeling of mild to moderate discomfort is normal, however do not roll over joints or bones. Essentially what the foam roller accomplishes is the breaking down of muscle adhesions and knots. The pressure from the roller helps to separate these areas of bound muscle and fascia. This allows the gliding surfaces of your muscles to function properly and move freely. This is not a comfortable process, but it should not be painful either. If it is painful, it is important to reduce pressure or move the roller slightly away from that particular area and release around it first. Avoid joints and bones because the roller applies too much pressure to these structures. Joints are not intended to have this type of pressure applied to them and although bones are strong the direction of force the roller applies to them can create unnatural and unhealthy pressures.
Do not foam roll your low back. It creates too much pressure in this region and will actually increase tightness. For the low back use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball so that the back has less force being applied to it.
When in doubt ask for help. As with any type of physical training or body work, if you are unsure of what you are doing ask a professional for some guidance. It takes only a few minutes out of your day to clarify any uncertainties but it can take days or weeks to heal an injury caused by improperly executing a technique.
Bradley is a NASM certified personal trainer, a NCCAOM licensed acupuncturist/Herbalist, and Qi Gong practitioner. He specializes in corrective exercise, functional exercise, strength training, Qi Gong training, sports injury, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine.