How to Foam Roll

We encourage members to foam roll before class, and we frequently program foam rolling in our warm-ups. So, here’s a fun question, do you actually know HOW to foam roll? Should you hit every body part possible, have a long range of motion, or is there another way? We answer this in the video below. Or, if you’d rather read than watch, keep scrolling.

When we foam roll pre-workout, we’re going for a short-term improvement in range of motion. We are not improving mobility long-term. To do that would require a dedicated mobility session – 2 minutes as a minimum effective dose for each position, for each body part. It adds up quickly.

Furthermore, dedicated mobility sessions are best done a few hours away from a training session. Smashing your soft tissues releases waste products into the body that need to be flushed out. Every get a stuffy nose or flu-like symptoms during/after a deep tissue massage? There you go. Doing this immediately before training can interfere with your session, and doing it immediately can interfere with the adaptation we’re looking for. (Note: light foam rolling on a worked body part after a training session can help promote recovery. We’re distinctly talking about deep tissue work here.)

So that’s what not to do. What DO we do? It’s called oscillatory foam rolling. Let’s assume that you have 2 minutes of foam rolling programmed into your warm-up. Step 1 is to look at the main lift of the day and identify the primary muscle groups involved. For example, your hamstrings are the prime movers for a deadlift, so on deadlift day, it would make sense to target them. (If you have time before class, you can get away with a couple other muscle groups as well. From there, we need to employ the following three principles:

  1. Find a tight point in that muscle group and oscillate 1-2 inches above and below for 30 seconds.
  2. Use the opposite part of your body to move you. For example, if you’re rolling out your lower body, your upper body moves you. And vice versa.
  3. For the 2nd 30 seconds, move the muscle in question while it’s pinned to the foam roller. For example, if you’re rolling your quads, flex and extend your knee.

This gives you 1 minute of work per side, which is the minimum effective dose for the short-term, movement priming benefit that we want. Trying to cram as many body parts on the roller as you can in 2 minutes is not going to help you. Instead, perform your foam rolling in this targeted manner, and you’ll have better training sessions as a result. See you in the gym.

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