By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer 

If you are new to the gym scene and have not yet heard of foam rolling, then listen up and prepare yourself for better results and shorter recovery time in the weight room. Foam rolling is a method used to stimulate self-myofascial release (SMR) in your muscle tissue. Also known as the “poor man’s massage,” foam rolling allows one to perform a massage without the use of a personal therapist. After hours in the gym all week our bodies tend to become a little worn down if we do not allow ourselves to heal properly. Muscle soreness is totally normal days after your last workout, regardless of how much you may have stretched.  If stretching alone does not relieve the stiffness or soreness you may be feeling, then I highly recommend finding a foam roller and adding this to your routine.

So What Does Foam Rolling Do Exactly?

Foam rolling is vital for your overall performance, injury prevention, muscle recovery, flexibility and improved blood and lymphatic circulation. During a deep tissue or sports massage, therapists use long, dragging movements over the muscle to release the tissue and promote blood flow to restore the muscle. This technique allows for faster recovery than stretching. In a perfect world, we would all have massages after a workout, but since that is not the case, foam rolling is the next best thing.

How Often Should I Be Foam Rolling?

Ideally, you want to be rolling before and after your workout for best results. Rolling before you workout as a warm up is also helpful to stimulate blood flow to your tendons and muscles. Too many people underestimate how important pre-habilitative exercises can be for your overall health. “I recommend foam rolling to my clients after a workout,” says Massage Therapist, Jenn Lowery of JVL Massage in Charleston, South Carolina. “The muscles are warm from exercise allowing for deeper work and helping to flush the lactic acid out of your muscles quickly. Ideally, someone would foam roll for at least 30 minutes after a workout, but that is often unrealistic, so I encourage a minimum of 15 minutes and making an effort to do 30 minutes after at least one workout a week.”

Tips For Best Results:

1.)   Do not roll directly where you feel pain.

Even though your first inclination is to relieve the muscle that hurts the most, this may be a big mistake. Roll the areas around the muscle first, before going directly on the spot that is sensitive. By doing this, you are promoting blood flow and releasing tension among the surrounding tissues, preparing the area you are about to work.

2.)   Roll Slowly

By using slow, linear movements with the foam roller you are giving your body time to relax. If you go too fast, your body will remain tense and you’ll defeat the purpose of the massage. Allow time for your muscles to adapt and manage the compression.

3.)   Do Not Over Roll the Muscle

Spend about 20-30 seconds on each tender area and then move on to the rest of the body. Over rolling the muscle or placing sustained pressure may damage the tissue or aggravate the nerves. Use your other body parts to help you balance your weight on the foam roller, so you don’t apply too much pressure to any certain area.

Foam rolling is so important to any fitness program, whether you are a rookie or a seasoned vet. Show your body some love and it’ll show you love back when you notice how much better you feel in the gym as well as in between workouts. To gain the best results, consistent exposure to self-myofascial release is key, so find what techniques work best for you and when to do them. Even if you spend long hours at your desk instead of at the gym, this too can help relieve and lengthen the muscles that atrophy while sitting in a chair all day.  For further instruction on how to foam roll, talk with a Personal Trainer to demonstrate moves you can do to relieve your muscles today!