Benefits of Foam Rolling (And Tips For Beginners)

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // May 24, 2022

Foam rolling has so many benefits and is popular amongst physical therapists and athletes to maximize muscle recovery. True to the name, it’s simply a roll of foam that is used for a self-myofascial release technique, that is much more affordable and convenient than deep tissue massages.

Foam rolling has gained popularity in recent years as more research reveals the incredible benefits it provides for the body.

7 Science-Backed Benefits Of Foam Rolling

1. Foam Rolling will loosen up stiff muscles.

Ever gone from lounging on the couch to hitting the pavement for a jog without taking the time to properly loosen up? You’ve likely felt extremely stiff. Foam rolling is a great way to loosen up your muscles before a workout so you can get the most out of your exercise. One study conducted by the National Strength & Conditioning Association concluded that athletes who took advantage of foam rolling before exercising felt much less fatigued than those who chose not to foam roll.

Related: The 6 Best Post-Workout Habits

2. Foam rolling can reduce stress.

High levels of stress can take a toll on your health, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape. Constant stress is linked to increased hormones such as cortisol that increase appetite, promote weight gain and fat storage, and disrupt your sleep. One university study from South Korea found that foam rolling can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

3. Regular foam rolling can prevent injury.

Injury prevention isn’t just about being careful, but about being proactive. A consistent routine of stretching and foam rolling can help keep pesky and painful injuries linked with tightness and overuse, as the iliotibial band, at bay by loosening up the muscles. Studies have concluded that loosening up the muscles increases the compliance of the muscle-tendon unit, therefore preventing the body from demanding energy absorption and release that can exceed the capacity of the muscle-tendon unit that leading to injury.

4. Foam rolling will limit soreness.

By increasing flexibility and blood flow, foam rolling can inhibit soreness. A 2015 study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association concluded that foam rolling was significantly effective in lessening muscle fatigue and soreness.

5. Foam rolling can increase flexibility.

Loosening up your muscles through foam rolling can boost their elasticity. The more flexible the muscles, the more power they can produce. In fact, a 2014 study found that foam rolling even increased an athlete’s range of motion.

6. Foam rolling boosts blood circulation.

Proper blood circulation is important on a multitude of levels. Massages work to improve circulation through the arteries, veins, and capillaries in your body, which allows them to receive more oxygen to feel refreshed. One study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association found that arterial stiffness was decreased while the vascular endothelial function was increased after using a foam roller.

7. It can increase your range of motion.

A 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the range of motion in every major joint in the body decreases with age. This can cause everyday tasks to feel painful. Decreased range of motion can also lead to injury. Foam rolling has been found to increase range of motion and, compared to static stretching before a workout, can increase muscle force according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.

You Might Also Like: Best Exercises For Shoulder Pain

Tips For How To Use The Foam Roller

woman using foam roller on quads

Keep in mind that foam rolling can actually be painful so be sure to go easy. You are typically looking for a ‘hurts so good’ feeling when you foam roll.

Foam Rolling Technique

The foam roll technique isn’t complicated if you understand a few key concepts.

There are two main techniques:

  1. Slowly roll back and forth to create friction and a rolling pin-like ironing-out of the fascia.
  2.  The other roller technique is to simply hold still on a tight spot for trigger-point targeting to “melt” away knots.
  3. A typical method to ensure you hit all the major muscle groups is to go from the bottom up: Start with the calves, then your hamstrings, then the glutes.

How To Use A Foam Roller

Here’s how to use a foam roller:

  1. Slowly roll over the whole area to investigate and soften your muscles approximately ten times.
  2. Find your sore spot or trigger point—pin it, hold it, lean into it, and add pressure.
  3. Cross friction—knead it back and forth across the muscle.

Best Foam Rollers On Amazon

  1. High Density (different length) Foam Roller 
  2. Trigger Point Foam Roller
  3. Medium Density Foam Roller
  4. Electric Foam Roller 
  5. Trigger Point Massage Ball –  I use this every morning for my low back pain routine. Great for targeted areas!
  6. Hyperice Sphere Massage Ball
  7. Massage Roller Stick

Get Started Foam Rolling

woman in using foam roller on glutes

Now you know all the benefits and tips to foam rolling so it’s time to start!

Here are 6 Foam Roller Moves To Loosen Tight Muscles in each area of your body. 

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