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Why You Should Foam Roll

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Why You Should Foam Roll

In a perfect world, we’d all get deep tissue massages every day and old-fashioned doughnuts would be calorie-free and packed with antioxidants. While we are still waiting on those magical doughnuts, but it turns out that daily massages aren’t that hard to come by. Meet your body's new best friend: foam rolling.

“If you only buy one piece of exercise equipment for the rest of your life, make it a foam roller,” says Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., author of The Exercise Cure and The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies1. The simple foam cylinders cost around $30 a piece, and its money well spent when you consider that you're investing in improved flexibility, upgraded mobility, peak muscle performance, and injury prevention and treatment.

How It Works
The brilliance of the foam roller is in how easy it is to use: You just place the target body part on top of the roller and roll back and forth. This basic movement targets your myofascia -- the mesh-like fibers that form around your muscles in response to damage caused by both working out too much (inflammation, injury) and not working out enough (inactivity). When myofascia get stuck on your muscles, they can cause pain and prevent normal muscle movement.

The good news is that stretching the fascia using a foam roller releases the muscles so that they can work the way they’re supposed to. Case in point: A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that foam rolling the quads increased participants range of motion by as much as 10 degrees2.

“You’ll notice immediate changes in your ease of movement, posture, and mobility,” says Metzl. “Without stretching at all, you’ll feel looser and more flexible -- as if you’ve developed a healthier body almost instantaneously.”

Metzl recommends foam rolling three to five times per week after exercising, but you can also do it nightly before bed if you have chronic muscle tightness.

The One Downside
There is a warning with foam rolling: “Like a deep massage, foam rolling can be uncomfortable,” says Metzl. As you push your muscle into the foam roller using your body weight, it can feel tender. That just means that you found a spot where the fascia is especially stiff and clumped together. The more you roll it out, the smoother the knots will become, reducing the pain, and increasing your mobility.

Plus, regular rolling will lead to less pain in the long run. Studies have found that foam rolling after exercise reduced delayed onset muscle soreness. For the participants who rolled out post workout, muscle soreness peaked 24 hours after exercising, whereas those who didn’t break out the roller saw their pain peak at 48 hours.

In my career, I’ve found that rolling out post-workout, either immediately or within a few hours usually has the best results in the reduction of soreness. Some may argue that you should do it before a workout as well, but I prefer sticking to dynamic warm-ups pre-exercise. It’s really up to you in the long run.

Common Trouble Spots

Lower Back Pain
Your lower back is super fussy. If the muscles are either too tight or too weak, they can spasm. And of course, sitting at a desk doesn’t help either of these problems. The best solution: do the Lower Back Roll.

Less-obvious causes of lower-back pain also include tight hamstrings, glutes, or hip flexors. Imbalances in these muscle groups can affect your body alignment, forcing your back muscles to overcompensate. You can roll every inch of those areas out too!

Hip Pain
“A strong butt is the key to a happy life,” says Metzl. Without your glutes to stabilize and properly mobilize your hip joint, you’re opening yourself up to a world of pain. Foam rolling this large muscle group with the Glutes Roll activates the muscles that you (literally) sit on all day, every day. “Fire them up and say good-bye to hip pain,” Metzl promises.

Bad Knees
Metzl sees about 20 cases of "runner’s knee" a week in his sports medicine practice. Runners knee happens because the patella, or the kneecap, is subjected to a lot of force when you do high-impact activities like running. Fortunately, this isn’t actually a knee problem. “More likely, muscle imbalances, tightness, or bad conditioning in the quads and hips is the issue," says Metzl. If the quad is imbalanced, it will pull the patella too far in one direction, causing pain. Loosening up with the Quadriceps-and-Hip-Flexors Roll will help correct this imbalance.

Everyone can and will benefit from foam rolling. Even if you can’t get down on the floor, you can foam roll against a wall or another hard surface to effectively target your problem areas. So why suffer through pain when you can roll it away?


  1. "Posts about Dynamic Stretching on FIT for Rest of Your Life." FIT for Rest of Your Life. Fitforrestofyourlife, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 08 Aug. 2017. <https://fitforrestofyourlife.com/tag/dynamic-stretching/>.
  2. Healey, Kellie C., Disa L. Hatfield, Peter Blanpied, Leah R. Dorfman, and Deborah Riebe. "The Effects of Myofascial Release with Foam Rolling on Performance." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28.1 (2014): 61-68. Web.


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