How to Foam Roll Properly

Updated: Jul 11



Most people think that foam rolling is only for people with existing mobility issues or stiff muscles. But we have busted that myth in our previous blog post “The Benefits of Foam Rolling.” In case you have missed it – we’d highly recommend that you read that before reading this blog post any further!


In an ideal world, it is recommended that you should foam roll twice a day, 7 days a week. But let’s be honest, 0.1% of us will actually do this. So, we recommend that you start with any amount of days and times you can incorporate in your schedule at the moment. The more the better, but we always say – once is still better than not at all.


Even if it means starting off by incorporating a foam rolling session on your rest days. And if you don’t want to do anything on your rest days – include your rolling session on the same day as your last workout – before your rest day.


Please note that foam rolling is not recommended for people who have osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure nor pregnant ladies! If you have any other health concerns or risk factors: it is HIGHLY recommended that you speak to your general practitioner or health care professional before you incorporate foam rolling into your routine.


As stated in our blog; the benefits of foam rolling; foam rolling before your workout sessions will increase the tolerance that muscles can take; it will improve effiency of muscle tissue – which will improve your performance during your workout. It will also increase the muscle tissue force output and lower your heart rate. Foam rolling after your workout session on the other hand, will aid in the release of tension through flushing and will help your body to start the recovery process early and will create more pliability (flexibility).


Studies have shown, that even though foam rolling might not directly affect or improve your performance levels – it’s been found that it does improve fatigue levels. And as a result of that, you will be able to perform better as it will take longer to reach the level of fatigue.


Foam rolling is uncomfortable but should not be unbearable painful. The more you foam roll and the more tension are released on your muscles – the easier / more comfortable foam rolling will become. One should be able to feel that the muscle is being compressed, but not to the point that it causes pain.


If you feel sharp/shooting pain – you should immediately stop the movement that’s causing the pain and readjust your position. The roller should cause discomfort (6/7 on the pain scale).

Start by gradually incorporating foam rolling into your routines – even if it’s only one session a week – and try to build up the amount of rolling sessions to as close as possible to twice a day (for the days you perform workouts. On rest days, once is sufficient.)


Guideline words to understand and communicate feelings of discomfort:

The level of discomfort experienced, will vary from person to person and depend on the activity levels of each person at each given time. What might feel easy today, might be unbearably painful tomorrow – depending on which muscles have worked during your workouts. Here are the scale used to communicate your level of discomfort to your trainer or health care practitioner.

o Normal-no change with feeling;

o Light pressure-easily tolerated pressure;

o Moderate pressure-somewhat uncomfortable pressure;

o Intense pressure-very uncomfortable pressure;

o Painful pressure-intolerable pressure;

o Boggy, knotty, bundled or hard-feels like rolling over a knot or adhesion (should be held on pressure statically);

o Pulsating-faint heartbeat in area (return of blood-could occur during/after release);

o Electrical-zing sensation radiating to another part of the body (during/after release);

o Numbness-cannot feel the sensation of pressure at all;

o Hypersensitive-pain is intolerable with pressure.

Now, let’s get to the actual foam rolling – How to Foam Roll:

Calves / Back Lower Leg (Gastrocnemius & Soleus)

* Set Up: Sit upright with the foam roller in front of you; place the biggest (meaty) part of your right calf onto the foam roller. Place your left leg on top of your right leg. Point your right foot down and place your hands behind you for support.

* Movement: Place your weight on your hands, lift your hips off the ground and use your arms to roll the foam roller along your calf. Keep your foot pointing down. Foam roll 4 times forward and back, then roll 4 times across the foam roller (side to side). Repeat on our left leg.


Shin / Front Lower Leg (Tibialis Anterior)

* Set Up: Start on all fours. Place the middle of your right shin onto the foam roller. Use your hands to support your weight. Lift your left knee to increase the pressure on your right shin.

* Movement: Roll your shin up and down the foam roller four times, and then roll your shin across the foam roller (side to side). Repeat on your left leg.


Side Shin / Outside Lower Leg (Peroneals)

* Set Up: Sit with your leg fully extended. Tuck your left knee in towards your chest and drop it side ways to the ground, making sure that your knee joint is at a 90° angle so that your shins (front of your lower leg) are parallel. Place the foam roller underneath your left leg. The foam roller should be in the middle of the outside of your leg. Use your left hand to support your weight.

* Movement: Place your right hand on top of our left leg to apply pressure and begin to roll your leg up and down the foam roller four times. Then roll across the foam roller 4 times. Perform the same on your right leg.


Front Leg (Quadriceps)

* Set Up: Place the foam roller on the floor, lie face down with the foam roller underneath your right mid-thigh. Use your forearms to support your weight. Keep your left leg lifted off the ground for extra pressure.

* Movement: Use your arms to help you roll forward and back along the foam roller. Roll from mid-thigh down to your knee and all the way back up to your hips. Perform this movement 4 times and then bend and extend your knee up and down for an additional 4 times. Repeat this movement on your left leg as well.


Outside Leg (IT-Band / ITB)

* Set Up: Start by setting yourself up in a side plank on your left side, move your right foot in front of you for support. Place the foam roller underneath the outside of your left quad. Place your weight onto the foam roller and point your toes in.

* Movement: Roll up and down the foam roller 4 times and then bend and extend your knee up and down for 4 more reps. Then roll across the foam roller for another 4 reps. Repeat on right plank position.


Back Leg (Hamstring)

* Set Up: Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath your left leg, the foam roller should be in the middle of your hamstring (the back of your thigh). Tuck your right knee in to place your right foot on the floor and place your hands behind you to support your weight.

* Movement: Shift your weight onto your hands and use your right foot to support. Lift your hips off the floor to apply pressure to your left hamstring, roll forward and back on the foam roller 4 times. Then roll another 4 times across the foam roller. To add more pressure, place your right leg on top of your left leg. Repeat on your right leg.


Inside Leg (Adductors)

* Set Up: Lie face down with your left knee bent to the side, inline with your hip. Place the foam roller underneath your left leg, on the inside of your thigh just above your knee. Your right leg should be extended straight and your elbows should be underneath you to support your weight.

* Movement: Lift your right knee off the ground to place your weight onto the roller applying pressure to your left inner thigh, roll up and down the roller 4 times. Roll all the way up to the hip and all the way down to the knee. Then perform 4 knee extensions (bends). For another 4 reps, roll across the foam roller. Repeat on your right leg.


Posterior (Glutes)

* Set Up: Set yourself up in a left side plank position. Place your right foot onto the floor behind your left leg for support. Place the foam roller underneath the centre of your left glute. Place your left hand behind you to support your weight. Now move your left foot on top of your right knee.

* Movement: Roll up and down the roller 4 times, roll to the top of your glute and back down to the bottom of your glute. Then roll diagonally up and down 4 times across the foam roller. Repeat on your right side.


Upper Back / Mid Back (Thoracic Spine)

* Set Up: Sit with your knees bend and your feet flat on the floor. Place the foam roller behind you and lean back so that the foam roller is underneath your lumbar curve (just underneath your shoulders). Place your hands behind your head.

*Movement: Lift your hips off the floor to apply pressure to your lumbar curve. Roll up and down the foam roller 4 times and side to side 4 times.


Chest (Pectorals)

* Set Up: Lie face down, place the foam roller length wise underneath your left pec – it should be just inside your left arm pit. Place your hands in a push up position.

* Movement: Place your right forearm onto the ground to apply pressure, foam roll side to side inside of your left arm pit to the middle of your chest 4 times. Then lift your left arm of the ground and straighten the arm 4 times then internal and external rotation 4 times. Repeat other way around as well.


Torso (latissimus dorsi)

* Set Up: Place yourself in a left side plank position, legs on the floor. Place the foam roller underneath your body – just below your left armpit. Your left arm should be extended out as if you were going to rest your head on your arm – with your palm facing up and your right had should be holding onto the roller for support.

* Movement: Roll up and down the foam roller from just below your left arm pit to the middle of your ribcage 4 times. Stop in the middle of your lat and roll across (side to side) 4 times. Then move your arm down inline with your chest and back up to the starting position 4 times. Repeat on other side.


Back Arm (Triceps)

* Set Up: Lie on your left side with your knees stacked up on top of each other, extend your left arem as if you were going to rest your head on it. Place the roller underneath your left tricep, use your right hand to hold onto the foam roller for support.

* Movement: Roll your arm up and down the foam roller 4 times, from the base of your elbow up to the inside of your armpit, then roll across the foam roller an additional 4 times. Repeat on other arm.


Front Arm (Biceps)

* Set Up: Lie face down with your left arm extended to your side. Internally rotate your left shoulder so your palm faces up. Then place the foam roller under your left arm in the middle of your bicep.

* Movement: Roll your bicep up and down the foam roller, from the base of your elbow to your armpit 4 times. Return to the middle of your bicep and roll across the foam roller 4 more times.


Forearms

* Set Up: Start on all fours; place your left forearm onto the roller with your palm facing up. Then place your right hand on top and interlock your fingers.

* Movement: Roll up and down the foam roller from the base of your elbow to your wrist 4 times, return to the middle of your forearm and foam roll across the roller an additional 4 times.


Neck

* Set Up: Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place the foam roller behind you and lean back so that the foam roller is underneath the base of your neck. Place your arms out to your side with your palms facing down.

* Movement: Look up and down 4 times and then look left and right four times.

Check out the video with full illustrations, on any our YouTube Channel.

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