How to Use a Foam Roller No Nonsense Guide

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At a Glance

  • You can use foam rollers for injury prevention, pre-exercise warm-ups and rehabilitation foam rollers aid in myofascial release through self-massage.
  • Foam roller exercises are popular exercise devices, fitness classes support the use of these simple gadgets raising their positive reputation.
  • The use of foam rollers alongside static-stretch exercise warm-up techniques releases tension in muscles and results in a greater range of motion.

There’s frequently a new gadget that’s touted as a must use in your fitness routine. Foam rollers are no exception. Now mainstream, foam rollers are hyped by fitness gurus as the go-to device for increasing your body’s flexibility, performance and recovery time.

Rolling your body over a tube—what’s that about! Are you puzzled by how to use a foam roller? You’re not alone.

Let’s roll on and learn about the artful technique of rolling out tension and why this simple exercise device has a raving reputation.

What Are Foam Rollers?

First for the novice; what’s a foam roller? It’s an exercise device that’s a dense cylindrical tube, and can have a smooth or textured surface. Foam rollers are an inexpensive, versatile exercise equipment that can be used at home.

Exercising with a foam roller is an alternative way to warm up your muscle groups prior to workout. Foam rollers help stretch out knotted muscle ligaments to decrease tension, improve the range of movement and reduce muscle fatigue. Foam rollers are further used for post-exercise cool down to boost circulation and reduce possible delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that achy soreness we feel 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout.

Foam rollers are designed for a total-body self-massage technique known as myofascial release (MFR). This technique of deep tissue massage is used to release muscle tightness and soreness prior to a workout and afterward to aid muscle recovery.

By massaging the connective tissues, or fascia, that surrounds your muscles with a foam roller, it’s claimed you can increase your range of motion, boost circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system and reduce muscle tightness and aid flexibility.

How to Use a Foam Roller

Foam rollers are not difficult to use and there are many reasons to incorporate them into your exercise routine. You can perform foam rolling exercises for the neck, shoulders, upper back, hips, legs and thigh muscles.

When using a foam roller you work on each muscle group, doing up to three reps, lasting 60 seconds each time. Applying compression to your muscles by leaning on the roller and moving back and forth. Your body weight applies the pressure as the roller moves along the ground.

Initial use of a foam roller can be uncomfortable, some users even say painful. Using a good technique should not create discomfort and applying a moderate amount of pressure with a small, slow range of movement is best.

Foam rollers exercises are best for these muscle areas:

  • Hamstrings and glutes.
  • Iliotibial band.
  • Upper back.
  • Quadriceps.

Foam Roller Health Benefits

The health benefits for your body when exercising with a foam roller are evident and research backs up the claims from fitness gurus. Incorporating foam roller exercises into your fitness routine has numerous benefits we look at science-proven benefits here:

1. Flexibility

Exercising pre-workout static stretches have been traditionally used to extend flexibility improving musculoskeletal health, decrease muscle tension and help prevent injury. Foam rollers have been studied when used as part of a combination warm-up stretch exercise alongside static stretching and as an alternative to conventional stretching techniques for increasing flexibility.

One four-week trial studied the foam rollers efficiency to increase hamstring flexibility with results showing rollers were as effective as contract-relax PNF stretching method. Another study showed a 4.3 percent increase in the range of motion using foam roller massage as a pre-workout exercise.

2. Recovery

Using a foam roller post-exercise enables the body to recover faster by helping to flush toxins from the body and increase blood flow to the fatigued muscles. Foam roller exercises aid in reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Foam rolling definitely works at reducing stiffness and pain in muscle groups felt after an intense bout of exercise. Studies show at 24 hours post-exercise muscle soreness was reduced in those who had performed post-exercise foam rolling. The technique of foam rolling is a helpful tool for athletes who need to recover quickly from training exercises.

3. Decreased Injury Risk

Exercising without a proper warm-up can lead to an increased risk of injury. Muscles that are tight are more prone to injury, through massaging with a foam roller you increase circulation and blood flow to your muscles, stretch out the muscle and these actions help prevent injury.

As foam roller exercises increase range of motion, this can help avoid the risk of injury caused by over exercising.

4. Performance

Since foam rolling exercises help reduce muscle fatigue by increasing circulation, the range of movement and post-exercise muscle soreness, it’s assumed that these factors, in turn, improve performance.

To a certain degree, foam rolling reduces muscle fatigue and may allow you to increase your frequency of exercise sessions and thus improve your performance.

What Type of Foam Roller is Best?

Foam rollers range from basic smooth surfaced, textured surface to vibrating rollers. The foam density and size differs offering you a wide choice depending on the planned use.

Smaller sized rollers are compact and conveniently fit in your gym bag, they work one muscle at a time. The longer foam rollers allow you to do many foam roller exercises.

Beginners to foam rolling opt for a medium density smooth roller, their flexibility makes them great for long workouts. Harder density foam rollers have a rough-textured surface for massage and are more geared towards professional athletes.

Studies reveal that different foam rollers may affect the range of motion. One study comparing vibrating foam rollers vs non-vibrating foam rollers found that the greatest increase in the range of motion was reached with the vibrating roller.

Common Mistakes When Using a Foam Roller

The main common mistake when exercising with a foam roller is too much speed. Going fast when using a foam roller can cause discomfort to your muscles and not achieve the desired warm-up. Since foam rollers are supposed to mimic a hand massage to the muscle area, it makes sense to go slow.

Individuals over do it on tender or knotted areas, constantly overworking these areas can actually cause bruising and pain. If you have a tender or injured muscle area roll over it with lighter weight and for only 30 seconds.


Foam rollers are a cheaply priced piece of fitness equipment that’s easy to use and aids self myofascial release massage. Anything that helps reduce recovery time is a plus. Used correctly foam rollers are painless and the therapeutic benefits are proven by science.

A foam roller is an essential fitness gadget great for the fitness newbie and professional alike. It helps condition the body, untighten knots and limbers up your muscle groups so you can get the maximum benefit from your workout.

A foam roller is an exercise device that’s earned its place in the gym.

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