5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (2023)

5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (1)

Here's what you need to know before using a foam roller when warming up or cooling down.


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vonAshley Abrahamson

Like many people who worked from home during the pandemic, 39-year-old Veronika Javor swapped a supportive desk chair in her office for a plush recliner in her living room. It was comfortable at first, but the new chair quickly took its toll when Ms. Javor, a Houston content creator, developed a sharp, radiating pain in her left buttock. She tried to ignore it, but after a particularly strenuous Pilates workout that targeted the glutes, the discomfort became unbearable.

"I woke up every morning in pain and at one point it hurt so much I was even afraid to exercise," said Ms Javor.

Her physical therapist said the problem was tightness in her glutes and suggested rolling her leg over a foam cylinder three times a day to relieve the tightness. After a month on the running plan, she began to feel less pain and was able to move more.

(Video) The BEST 5 Minute FOAM ROLLER Routine You'll Ever Do

Muscle tightness, whether it's from sitting for days or working out hard, can make it hard to move the way you want to. An hour on the massage table can reduce pain and improve performance, but some experts say it cansimilar benefitsof a foam roller at home. Research to support this practice is still evolving and some scientists are skeptical about it, but there are a few things you should know if you're going to try it.

The case for foam rollers

Every muscle in your body is held in place by layers of connective tissue called fascia. According to Cedric X. Bryant, President and Chief Science Officer of theAmerican Council on ExerciseBoth exercise and inactivity can cause these tissues to become stiff or tight, causing tension throughout the muscle or tightness in a more localized area -- called a trigger point or knot -- limiting flexibility and range of motion.


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (2)

When a stiff or misaligned fascia prevents muscles and joints from moving effectively, exercise can be uncomfortable and risky. "If you can't move your shoulder because your joint or muscle is tight, an injury usually results when you try to strengthen it," says Theresa Marko, a New York City-based physical therapist and associate professor at Stony Brook University.

In theory, rolling a muscle across a stiff, cylindrical piece of foam does something akin to a massage. "Similar to a massage, foam rolling uses friction to relieve tension and realign fascia," said Dr. briant

An actual onesystematic reviewFrom 49 studies, they concluded that foam rolling for 90 seconds to two minutes at a time often reduced muscle stiffness and increased range of motion or joint mobility.Other minor investigationshave found that foam rolling can also improve flexibility, or the ability of soft tissues to stretch, at least in the short term. long termStudies have foundthat rolling the hamstrings three times a week for four weeks also improved flexibility.

Adding a foam roller to your cool down can be an optionalso prevent or reduceRelieve muscle soreness after exercise by promoting blood circulation. aStudy 2014The suggested post-weight foam rolling relieved muscle soreness and improved exercise performance, as measured by vertical jump height and range of motion.

Maillard Howell, a Brooklyn-based personal trainer and head of fitness at Reebok, said most of his clients breathe a sigh of relief when they roll on the foam. "If lying on a foam roller before or after your workout makes you feel better, I see no reason not to use it, as long as it's done properly and doesn't exacerbate your problem," Howell said.

The case against foam rollers

However, not everyone is convinced of foam rolling. Dr Elizabeth Gardner, an associate professor of orthopedics at the Yale School of Medicine, said the people she treats often put too much trust in it.

“Oh, foam rollers — how my athletes love you!” she wrote in an email. "Unfortunately, her obsession with foam rolling is scientifically baseless."

She said most of the studies advocating foam rolling are small and often use different methods, making it hard to say why they work.

Dr Bryant acknowledged that there aren't enough large, well-designed studies to confirm the effectiveness of the practice. AMeta-analysis 2015Fourteen articles concluded that while foam rolling seems to improve movement and reduce muscle soreness, there is no consistent way to do it.

Judy Gelber, a physical therapist from Omaha, said that when people spend their time doing foam rolling, "the time people can better think about why their bodies feel like they need to do foam rolling." for example, suggested warming up with the full range of motion (i.e., up, down, sideways, etc.) or strengthening the muscles at the end of the range of motion (exercises when the muscles are longest or shortest).

Foam rollers can also injure some people. For example, people with arthritis can damage their joints, and rolling on an injury, whether it's a broken bone or torn muscle, can make the condition worse. People with limited mobility or anyone who cannot control their body weight on the floor should also exercise caution or consult a physiotherapist for a safer alternative.

Get started

If you decide to roll with foam, Dr. Michael Fredericson, professor of sports medicine at Stanford School of Medicine, has a difficult role. There are also ones with textured ridges and bumps, which Dr. Bryant can relieve deeper muscle tension.

Jean-Michel Brimée, physical therapist and director of the International Academy of Orthopedic Medicine, recommends starting with lighter pressure and not putting too much body weight on the roller. Generally, a minute or two is sufficient, but you can start with less.

(Video) 4 Foam Rolling Exercises for Skeptics

Here are five foam rolling exercises you can try at home before or after your workout. If you are unsure whether foam rolling is safe for you, consult your physiotherapist or doctor.

For Gesässrole


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (3)

Sitting for long periods of time can tighten your glutes, as can exercises like deadlifts, squats, and lunges. Place a foam roller on the floor and place it horizontally on top. With your knees bent or straight (or one leg bent and one leg straight), press your feet to the floor and roll back and forth on your buttocks until you find tender spots. Lean sideways as you roll to avoid hitting your tailbone. If that seems too intense for you, try lying in the same position in your bed and sliding a tennis ball under the trigger point.

shoulder blade roll


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (4)

Dumbbell presses, push-ups and rows can lead to tension in the shoulder blade area. To release tension, use the foam roller to lie on the floor perpendicular to your spine and roll over the muscles around your shoulder blades. It can feel good to hug yourself or spread your arms as you do so.

Hoarding role


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (5)

(Video) Top 5 Foam Roller Exercises

Your hamstrings, which start at your hips and reach down to your knees, can get tight after a leg workout. Lying on your back, lift one leg at a time as high as you can while wrapping a towel around your foot to create resistance. Pull on the towel to stretch your hamstrings before you roll.


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (6)

Then, while sitting with your legs straight, place the roller under the back of your thighs. Roll your hamstrings back and forth all the way up and down. If you notice smaller areas of tension, hang in there. After that, you should be able to stretch deeper.

Foam roller for the mid-back


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (7)

After working on the computer or doing upper body exercises such as push-ups or pull-ups, rolling your mid back can bring relief. Place the roller under your back, parallel to your spine, then gently roll back and forth over the muscles surrounding your spine. Roll each side of the spine separately, avoiding rolling the bones themselves. Keep in mind that rolling can lead to acute injuries or chronic back problems if you have them.

Neck mobility exercise


5 foam-rolling exercises for skeptics (8)

(Video) Is Foam Rolling Bad For You?

Spending too much time at a desk can strain the muscles that support your head, leading to headaches. Dr Marko said using a foam roller as a mobility aid can lengthen your cervical spine and promote relaxation and flexibility in surrounding muscles, and that gentle pressure on the foam roller can relieve trigger points.

Lie on the floor with the foam roller behind your neck, parallel to the base of your skull. Keeping your knees bent, buttocks and feet on the floor, slowly and gently turn your head left and right. You can also keep your head still and try to gently rock your knees back and forth to create tension with your lower body. Avoid this exercise if you already have neck pain or nerve problems, as you can put pressure on the nerves and make the problem worse.

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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(Video) Foam Roller Mistake! (Watch BEFORE You Foam Roll)

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Is it OK to foam roll every day? ›

Is it okay to foam roll every day? Yes, it is perfectly fine to use a foam roller on a daily basis. Like stretching, foam rolling can have a similar effect. It can be integral to the prevention of injury by increasing blood flow, decreasing soft-tissue density and relaxing tight muscles.

Do foam rollers actually work? ›

Studies have shown that rolling out your muscles does decrease tissue tension and can improve your range of movement, increasing your speed and flexibility.

What is the science behind foam rolling? ›

As a result, it is thought that the pressure applied by foam rolling reduces the localised myofascial tightness by stimulating the fascial mechanoreceptors to signal the central nervous system to alter the activity of the muscle(s) below (8).

Does foam rolling reduce cellulite? ›

While foam rollers have many uses for improving how the body moves, they CANNOT eliminate cellulite. The body stores excess energy as fat in adipose tissue and cellulite, which is the layer of fat interwoven between the muscle, skin and fibrous connective tissue.

Are there any negatives to foam rolling? ›

There are certain conditions and circumstances where use of a foam roller could be detrimental or damaging to a person's body. Foam rolling exercises load and stress the underlying tissues, including nerves, skin receptors, blood and lymphatic vessels, as well as bones.

What are the disadvantages of foam rollers? ›

Rolling over an acutely torn muscle could hinder the repair of the muscle and at the very least would be incredibly uncomfortable and painful. Please note that scientific evidence supporting the use of foam rolling for therapeutic reasons is sparse and caution should be taken by anyone who uses them.

Should you go fast or slow on a foam roller? ›

While it feels better to go fast, and you do circulate blood flow, releasing fascia takes time. Fascia is a thick, fibrous web of tissue. As such, it can't be released with a quick pass of the foam roller. You need to be slow and deliberate in your movements.

Is there anything better than a foam roller? ›

Foam rollers are a quick and effective method to target larger muscles, but a tennis ball can do the trick as well. Even if a client does have a foam roller, tennis balls help clients roll smaller areas of a muscle that larger rollers can't reach.

What are five 5 benefits of foam rolling? ›

What are the benefits of foam rolling?
  • Reduces injury and speeds up recovery. ...
  • Improve flexibility without impairing strength. ...
  • Faster fitness results. ...
  • Simple self-massage. ...
  • Improves posture.
Oct 18, 2022

Is foam rolling just as good as stretching? ›

While both foam rolling and stretching have their merits, if you've only got time for one, you should grab your trusty foam roller, says DailyBurn Fitness/Nutrition Coach Sarah Snyder. “Foam rolling gives you all the same benefits of stretching as, well as added benefits,” she says.

What is the placebo effect of foam rolling? ›

The placebo effect is real, people.) If the expectation is that foam rolling somehow directly increases your athletic performance, that evidence is lacking, but it could indirectly improve your performance in a subsequent workout if it reduces your post-workout fatigue and soreness the day before.

How do you break up fascia cellulite? ›

There are several ways to do fascia blasting, but here's how it usually works:
  1. Warm up your body with a heating pad or hot shower. ...
  2. Apply oil on the area you want to work on.
  3. Gently rub the fascia blaster device on your skin in a scrubbing motion. ...
  4. Repeat on other areas of your body as needed.

Does foam rolling get rid of inflammation? ›

In summary, applying foam rolling after damage has benefits such as an increase in anti-inflammatory proteins and a reduction of pro-inflammatory proteins, resulting in muscle recovery and better performance.

Does foam rolling improve lymphatic drainage? ›

Not only does foam rolling improve lymphatic fluid movement, it also oxygenates and moves the blood. This freshly oxygenated blood flowing through your system as a result of foam rolling aids movement and helps soothe discomfort and pain caused by demanding activities and injuries.

What are 2 areas of your body you should avoid while foam rolling? ›

Avoid rolling the lower back – hyperextension of the lumbar spine can be injurious although rolling the thoracic spine can provide relief from upper back pain and poor posture. The neck should also be avoided. Increase the intensity and duration of foam rolling gradually to avoid post-treatment soreness or bruising.

What are 4 benefits of foam rolling? ›

What are the benefits of foam rolling?
  • Ease muscle pain and soreness.
  • Reduce muscle inflammation.
  • Increase range of motion.
  • Increase blood flow to muscles.
  • Aid in muscle recovery.
  • Aid in relaxation.
Jan 20, 2023

How long is too long to foam roll? ›

Make sure you aren't foam rolling a particular muscle group longer than two minutes, which may mean setting a timer to help keep you from overdoing it.

Can you damage a muscle by foam rolling? ›

Also, if you're moving the foam roller too aggressively over a cold muscle specifically, it can damage muscle tissue and make aches even worse. Instead, you'll want to keep the roller still and shift your body gently to allow the body to generate heat and warm up a bit to loosen tense points.

Are foam rollers better than plastic rollers? ›

We recommend foam rollers for those who want to sleep while styling as opposed to plastic rollers, for comfort purposes. Magnetic and Velcro rollers work well if you have chemically treated, thick or fine hair, since they impart fuller body and long-lasting curls and only require about 15 minutes to lock in the style.

Which is the best foam roller smooth or bumpy? ›

A smooth foam roller is a good choice for someone who is just getting into rolling because the pressure is not as intense as with a textured roller. Also, smooth foam rollers are typically less expensive than textured rollers.

How long does it take fascia to release? ›

Most injury to fascia heals within a six to eight week period. Occasionally chronic inflammation and pain affect fascia. This may cause problems such as painful movement or fibromyalgia.

How do you release fascia knots? ›

Heat therapy: Applying heat to sore muscles can help relax the fascia, improving your range of motion and reducing muscle pain. 5. Foam rolling: Foam rolling, or massaging your muscles with the help of a foam roller, helps stretch and loosen your fascial tissue.

Can you foam roll plantar fasciitis? ›

Here is a video of foam rolling exercises. These can be done for many conditions of the foot and ankle including achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

Can you overdo foam rolling? ›

Can you overdo foam rolling? When it comes to foam rolling, yes, you can overdo it. Excessively using a foam roller on a specific area can increase injuries and leave you in more pain. Instead, limit foam rolling to 30 to 90 seconds per muscle group and include 10 seconds of stretching in between each roll.

Should I foam roll before bed? ›

If you do it before bed, muscles that are opened up and at ease help you literally collapse into bed, helping you sleep better. The act of rolling out those knots of tension in your muscles elevates the mood which increases the level of serotonin in the brain. This leads to a feeling of ease and joy.

Do massage guns break up fascia? ›

A massage gun is a handheld device that provides percussive massage for your muscles. It vibrates to help blood, oxygen and nutrients flow into the muscles, which can promote healing and faster recovery after a workout. Massage guns can also break up the tissue around the muscles (muscle fascia).

Can I use a tennis ball as a foam roller? ›

Low and Upper Back: - Take two tennis balls and put them in a long sock and tie the end off. Stand up against the wall with the tennis balls on either side of the spine. Apply as much pressure as you feel comfortable with. Slide up and down the wall to get different areas of the back.

How often should you foam roll? ›

I would suggest a frequency of 2-3 times per week is usually adequate in most cases but you can increase this to as much as 3 times per day providing it isn't increasing your pain levels and you make this change gradually.

Can you overdo it with a foam roller? ›

If you're unusually sore the day after foam rolling, you may have foam rolled too long or too aggressively. Make sure you aren't foam rolling a particular muscle group longer than two minutes, which may mean setting a timer to help keep you from overdoing it.

Is it better to foam roll in the morning or at night? ›

If you do it before bed, muscles that are opened up and at ease help you literally collapse into bed, helping you sleep better. The act of rolling out those knots of tension in your muscles elevates the mood which increases the level of serotonin in the brain. This leads to a feeling of ease and joy.

How many minutes a day should I foam roll? ›

To keep flexible, stress-free, and avoid injuries, you should aim to foam roll on a daily basis for 5 to 20 minutes. But even a few times a week will make a big difference!

Is foam rolling better than stretching? ›

Breaking up myofascial adhesions improves range of motion, but in a different way than stretching does. In addition to keeping the myofascial tissue in line, foam rolling also helps keep muscle fibers in line. When your muscles are under stress, a necessity for performance improvements, the fibers can become damaged.

Why you should drink water after foam rolling? ›

Water helps flush out toxins: When you foam roll, you're releasing tension and toxins from your muscles. Drinking water after foam rolling helps flush out these toxins from your body, which can further reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery.

Which direction should you foam roll? ›

Statement 1: You should only roll in the direction of vascular flow. This statement refers primarily to the fascial massage of the legs. It is alleged that excessive rolling in the opposite direction to the venous flaps, that is, away from the heart, can be harmful and may result in varicose veins.

Is it better to foam roll before or after shower? ›

Straight after a shower or bath is perfect. Warm muscles relax easier so you'll get far less resistance and discomfort while foam rolling, which is an amazing advantage!”

How long does it take to roll out a knot? ›

It takes time for the muscles to adapt to a new motion or recover from stress. Usually within a week or two a muscle knot will resolve on its own.

Should I stretch after foam rolling? ›

100% you should roll before you stretch!!

Rolling is utilised to break up tightness and density within muscle tissue. This then enables us to lengthen out the muscle with stretching exercises to really build long-term flexibility.


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