What is foam rolling?

Many of you have heard about a technique called “foam rolling”, but what exactly is it? and what is it useful for?

The idea of foam rolling, using a hard foam cylinder, is a myofascial (muscle) therapy used to lengthen, elongate and stretch muscles. In essence, it is sort of like ironing your muscles (without the heat). The best approach being to start at the origin attachment point of a particular muscle or group of muscles and, with that area compressed to the foam roller and pressure applied, slowly roll out the area toward the opposite end, or insertion, of the muscle(s).

Foam rolling is used to increase flexibility and range of motion, eliminate knots and reduce soreness in muscles. It is not typically used as a treatment method alone, but when combined with other treatments can be incredibly useful to prevent injuries or exacerbations.

Typically, when I use my foam roller, I like to use it after a workout or after traveling in my car for a long time (>2 hours). I target certain body parts that need work or feel tight. If it’s my mid-back, I will actually lie on top of the foam roller and use various angles to work the muscles and tight spots. For the hips and legs, I sit on the foam roller and again, with varying angles, allow gravity and body weight to be the force that helps “iron out” the muscles. Foam rolling can be great for many muscles!

One final note, foam rolling is not for everybody. People who feel unstable/unsteady trying to balance on a foam cylinder may have a difficult time with it. People who bruise easily may find it causes more harm than good (although bruising is typically not a side-effect). And some people may just view it as uncomfortable. This is okay though, as there are many options for each person to find what he or she benefits most from.

Erik Krebs