How to Make Foam Rolling More Convenient

Tuesday, 06/19/2018

Complaint: Foam rolling hurts

Solution #1: Use the Correct Roller For Your Body and Level of Experience

One of the most common complaints and detractors from foam rolling is that it hurts in the beginning. This is undoubtedly true, but there are ways to make foam rolling feel a lot more comfortable. The first thing to do is make sure you are using a roller with the proper density for your body type. If you’re just starting to incorporate foam rolling into your workout, you probably shouldn’t be trying to roll on a piece of PVC pipe to start with. More pain does not always equal a greater benefit. Start by using a soft roller, and ease your way into higher density roller. Your basic “old school” compressed roller works great for most people starting out.



Solution # 2: Stop Rolling So Fast

Remember that when you foam roll you are rehydrating your muscles with a fresh blood supply by breaking up muscle adhesions. In order to do this you should roll slowly, pausing on areas that feel most tender and breathe regularly. Don’t try to rush through the process by rolling as fast as possible over a knot. Doing so does not allow the muscle to relax and release the trigger point, and you get a lot of extra pain.

Solution # 3: Stop Rolling Your IT Band

Speaking of unnecessary extra pain, stop thinking that you need to roll your IT band. People that complain the most about foam rolling seem to think this is the area to focus on. There is a reason why it hurts so bad when you go over it with a foam roller. Your IT band is a tight band of connective tissue that is supposed to be relatively tight to help support the knee.  In most situations, you don’t need to roll it! Instead, focus on rolling the hips, quads, and calves in order to address your knee pain. These are the muscles you want to be able to contract properly and move through a full range of motion. Doing this will help you actually address the root cause of your knee problems.


Complaint: Foam Rolling Takes Too Much Time

Solution: Foam Roll Between Sets

One common mistake that people make is they think they have to roll their entire body either before, or after a workout. I would never say not to do some rolling before and after if you had the time, but that much soft tissue work is generally not necessary and can get in the way of your workout. This is especially true if you are time crunched to begin with.

Instead, focus on foam rolling between your warm up sets to help you loosen up. As an example, let’s take a look at the squat. When you first get under the bar and hit your squat, try to see how your body feels. As you take your rest, roll out the tightest part of your body. This is generally the calves. Next, perform another warm up set, followed by rolling out the quads. After you perform your third warm up set, roll out your glutes and piriformis.

Rolling each muscle group should not take longer than a minute or two. By the end of three warm up sets, you will have addressed your calves, quads, and hips. All of these need to have adequate mobility properly to keep your knee tracking properly when you do your squat.



Complaint: I Don’t Have the Patience to Foam Roll Everything That is Tight

Solution: Pick the Right Muscles to Foam Roll

You do not need to foam roll every muscle in your body every single day to get some mobility benefits from foam rolling. All you have to do is pick the large muscle groups that you are working that day, and roll them between sets to get some benefit. If you are someone who follows an upper or lower split, you can use the following strategies:

Upper Body: Roll 1 of the Following for 1 min Between Each Set

  • Pecs
  • Lats
  • Thoracic Spine

Lower Body: Roll 1 of the Following for 1 min Between Each Set

  • Calves
  • Quads
  • Glutes/Piriformis




Stull, Kyle. Complete Guide to Foam Rolling. Human Kinetics, 2018.