Wherever your workouts fall on the intensity-spectrum, we can all benefit from one simple technique: Self-myofascial release.
As the name suggests, self-myofascial release (or self-massage) is performed by applying pressure to your muscles using either a dense foam roller or lacrosse/massage ball. The massage you get from rolling allows you to break down adhesions that have formed within the connective tissue and release tension throughout your muscles.
A little effort can go a long way with this technique and the benefits (which include improving mobility, reducing muscle discomfort and speeding up recovery time) can start to be seen after just a few sessions.
How long should I foam roll?
The whole process shouldn’t take much more than just a few minutes to complete and it is suggested that you spend anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes on each area. Any less than that and you probably won’t see much change at the tissue level; any more and it could lead to bruising, which could have a negative impact on recovery.
How do I do it?
Look through the full-body routine provided below and roll up and down through the positions using as much or as little pressure as you feel necessary on each area.
Try to relax your muscles as you work through each section and work on a few inches at a time. When you reach a spot that feels more painful than the areas around it, try rolling side to side or moving the joint through it’s range of motion (ie. if you find a pressure point on your quad, stop on that point, rotate the leg left and right, then stop in the middle and slowly flex and extend the knee).
How do I adjust the pressure?
The first few times you attempt to foam roll, especially if you’re particularly tight, this process will likely be uncomfortable so you may want to start with a low amount of pressure. As a rule of thumb, the more contact points you have with the ground and the roller, the less pressure you are going to feel on the muscles being worked.
For less pressure:
Keep both feet on the floor and roll both sides at the same time wherever possible (ie. hamstrings, quads).
For more pressure:
Lift your feet off the ground and try rolling one side at a time by crossing one side over the other and focusing on one area (ie. hamstrings, quads).
Another way to adjust the pressure is to opt for a more or less dense roller. For more details on the type of foam roller you should buy, read our post on Tips for Choosing a Foam Roller that’s Right For Your Body.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Don’t ever roll over a joint, especially the one that is located at the back of the knee. When rolling the hamstrings, be sure to stop the roller well above the knee capsule to avoid putting pressure on the sensitive bursa in that area.
The lumbar spine requires a lot of core control to roll through properly and, in turn, is very easy to aggravate if you work through this section. Instead, try using a lacrosse ball against a wall to reach the erector spinae muscles.
The area along your side-body located just above your pelvis houses a number of floating ribs. The pressure from the roller could damage to these sensitive bones so it’s best to avoid this area.
When should I foam roll?
A side benefit of the rolling process is that is actually increases the circulation of blood to your muscles, which is the whole point of a warm-up before you exercise; therefore, foam rolling can be used both before your workout to prep your muscles for exercise, and after your workout to release adhesions and promote recovery.
Full Body Foam Rolling Routine