Foam rolling: every athlete’s nemesis! It’s the first thing we neglect, but the one which can bring about the most benefits if you want to prevent sore, achy muscles.

If you’ve always wondered why and when you should foam roll and, more importantly, how to foam roll then please read on. Perhaps you’ve even got a foam roller stashed away in the back of a dusty cupboard which you’ve never used. Get it out and let’s put it to work!

It’s actually probably wrong to reference athletes when talking about foam rolling, as almost anyone can reap the benefits. Perhaps you’ve got sore shoulders from sitting at a desk too long? Yep, get that foam roller out.

man using a foam roller

Foam rolling has lots of benefits for athletes

What are the key benefits?

First off, a regular foam rolling programme can help you recover faster and prevent injury. You’ve possibly heard of myofascial releasing, but we won’t get too scientific here, promise.

Suffice to say, foam rolling both before and after exercising can help warm up the muscles. The pressure applied onto your quads, calves, back or whatever muscle you’re trying to loosen up will increase the temperature of said muscles, helping prepare them for exercise.

As an added bonus, warmed up muscles will allow you to perform better during that super hard hill session you’ve been dreading – so make sure you do it!

Post-workout, doing the same foam rolling will increase blood flow to those sore muscles to promote recovery and reduce lactic acid build up. 

Injury prevention

While nothing can replace the benefits of a sports massage (subtle promo), foam rolling is a great way of releasing any minor knots beginning to build up in your muscles.

Without regular stretching and foam rolling, muscles become shortened which can cause knots to build up. This can lead to a whole host of issues, not least of all a reduced range of movement and mobility.

Below you’ll see the best way of foam rolling in order to relieve those knots but, in short, you’ll know when you’ve hit one! It may be that you could benefit from a trigger point ball to really get into those knots depending where they are, but a foam roller in the first instance will definitely help.

woman foam rolling on her front

Foam rolling can prevent injury and even release tight shoulders for office workers

Does it hurt?

In short, yes it can hurt! There’s a reason people neglect it because not only can it be sore, but it often feels like a workout in itself. 

You’ll be getting your body into positions that may not feel natural to you in order to get the most benefit and that can cause muscle fatigue – enjoy those DOMS!

However, the pain should never be so intense that it’s unbearable. It should be a ‘good’ kind of pain – the type you know is doing you good. 

If you’re experiencing sharp, shooting pains stop immediately. You may just be pressing a little too hard, or there may be an underlying issue which needs resolving with professional help. 

Which parts of my body should I be foam rolling?

For best results, focus on foam rolling your muscles such as quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, traps and lats, rather than ligaments such as the IT band. 

Also never, ever roll over a joint – that will hurt and could potentially do you some damage. You’ll feel some resistance under the foam roller as you get nearer joints such as your knees and hips – always stop and either roll back down or move onto another part of your body.

woman foam rolling her calves

Make sure you foam roll the right way to avoid doing further damage

Okay, so how do I foam roll?

It looks pretty easy, right? Well yes, in theory, but there are some things to bear in mind. 

Put the muscle you want to release onto the foam roller and gently lift your body up, so pressure is applied. 

If foam rolling your hamstring, for example, you can use the opposite leg to take some of the weight if the pressure is too much.

Gently roll up the muscle (remembering not to roll over any joints). Find where your tightness is and hold at that point for 5-10 seconds. If you feel you aren’t getting enough release you can lift up the leg or arm which is taking some of the weight and you’ll feel extra pressure applied. 

Try moving the muscle around in different ways to find what works best for you.

Check out this example of how to foam roll your hamstrings on Mapp Massage’s Facebook page.

How often should I foam roll?

Like anything, consistency is key, so to get the most benefit you should look to foam roll on a regular basis. Start by foam rolling when you feel your body needs it and take it from there.

It may be that you start to feel the benefit after a few days, or perhaps you get the most benefit when you foam roll before and/or after exercise. Find what works for you and stick with it.

If you’ve got any questions about foam rolling, injury prevention or whether you’d benefit from a sports massage, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing or calling 07791 216692.