How to Effectively Warm-Up, Part 1: All About Foam Rolling

how to foam roll effectively
You’ve seen them everywhere: your local gym, the physical therapists office and even in your coworkers cubicle. Foam rolling seems to be one of the “latest and greatest” trends that’s likely to stick around.
While foam rollers have become more popular in large commercial gyms over the last few years, they’ve actually been around for quite awhile (mostly in physical therapy offices and smaller, private gyms that know what’s up). Fortunately for you, these days they’re just about everywhere and easily accessible no matter where you work out.
So what exactly is foam rolling? 
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR), a self-massage technique used to break up muscle adhesions and improve blood flow.
Foam rolling correctly and consistently can also help prevent muscular injuries and improve posture. By breaking down scar tissue and tissue adhesions, you’re helping the muscles become more pliable, which in turn leads to greater performance in the gym. Improved range of motion is beneficial for everyone, whether you’re a yogi, gymnast, bodybuilder, or a simple gym goer.
While you’ll most likely notice some relaxation in the muscles after foam rolling, you’ll need to stick with it consistently over the long term to recognize its full benefits. Keep in mind, foam rolling (or any stretching for that matter) will not prevent muscle soreness, but it can help reduce it.
Unfortunately, without using the proper techniques you may not be getting the most out of your foam roller.
How to Foam Roll Most Effectively
First off you’ll want to make sure you’re using slow and controlled movements. Take your time, focusing on small areas. If you find a particularly tight spot, focus on this area, holding a comfortable amount of pressure for 30-90 seconds. Once you feel a “release” move on to the next area. Remember, focus on small sections, versus using longer sweeping motions.
During movements where you’re facedown, you’ll want to initiate movement and support your upper body, using your forearms (not the wrists).
Take a look at the video below for a demonstration of just some of the various areas you can foam roll:

Wondering when you should be foam rolling?
I generally recommend foam rolling prior to working out. However, there is no reason to limit it to this period. Have some time at night? Instead of vegging out on the couch, break out that foam roller and get to work!
Back when I had my corporate job, I would keep a variety of soft tissue tools in my office. Every now and then I’d take a break and do some serious foam rolling. Did I get a few weird looks at first? Sure did! But, it didn’t take long for those same people giving me weird looks, to start asking if they could borrow my foam roller. 😉
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my “How to Effectively Warm-Up”. I’ll be reviewing the other components of an effective warm up routine, including:
  • when to use static versus dynamic stretching
  • mobility drills
  • glute activation
  • complete warm up guide and examples!
Want more warm-up info? Read Part 2 here.

About Melissa

Melissa Wilson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA and received her Bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In addition to in-person training, Melissa is the founder of ProShape Fitness -- a healthy living company, which specializes in online fitness and nutrition coaching for individuals who want to get back into shape and adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

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