Get the Most Out of Foam Rolling

Foam rollers are now common in gyms, physical therapy clinics, training rooms and Division I weight rooms. They've proven to be an effective tool to increase mobility, reduce fascial adhesions, loosen tight muscles and improve recovery.

But as with any gym equipment, some approaches work better than others. Let's look at how to get the most out of your foam roller.

What Foam Rolling Is Not

  • A soft pillow used for a post-workout nap. It needs to be solid.
  • Just for a warm-up. It is best for recovery, stability and can even be used for balance.
  • Comfortable. It is used to work through sore spots.
  • Self myofascial release. It is a form of self treatment and can be considered a manual technique. But, true myofascial release is a specific, skilled technique to correct a wide range of changes in muscle tissue.
  • A fast movement. Even when you've become adept at it, you still need to move slowly over the muscle being rolled, spending from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes on a problem spot in a muscle.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

  • Smooths out wrinkles in the muscles
  • Improves blood flow to the muscles prior to a workout
  • Improves range of motion without a loss of power afterward
  • Aids muscle recovery by preventing delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout

Mainly, you don't need to foam roll everything every day. You don't want it to be the only tool you use, especially for a warm-up. It will not substitute for hard work, whether you are injured or wanting to get stronger or faster.

It is important to note that you don't want to lengthen all muscles. Get an evaluation from an expert to tell you, for example, if your IT bands or your adductors are really tight (most people's are not). Use the roller on the muscles that need lengthening and strengthen the muscles that are already loose.

RELATED: Foam Rolling Techniques for Hamstrings, Quads and Glutes

Vibrating Foam Rollers

Vibrating foam rollers have a high-frequency vibration component inside. This allows for more variability. Vibrating rollers are strong enough to take your full body weight while you are standing on them, so you can get whole-body vibration. But you can also use them for small muscles that need to be rolled out and loosened up.

Other benefits:

  • Improved blood flow prior to working out
  • Improved recovery
  • Better power output
  • Improved range of motion
  • Enhanced preparedness for the day's game or workout

Learn more about how and why athletes foam roll.