While foam rolling can be extremely beneficial for almost everyone, the latest research suggests you could be receiving an even greater advantage by using it with the following 3 simple techniques:
1. Robust Rolling
2. Release Rolling
3. Trigger Point Rolling
First let’s start with an explanation of what foam rolling is:
Foam Rolling is a method of self care that uses a variety of tools such as balls, handheld sticks and larger cylinder shaped objects to affect the fascial network.
Ready to get rolling? Here are the basics:
1. Choose a foam roller:
The proper density of the foam roller is essential. You need to be able to relax into the sensations created by the pressure of your body weight and movement. David Lesondak, Structural Integrator and Fascial Expert, described this best when he said “you should be able to say to yourself: ‘it doesn’t hurt but it has about 90% of my attention’”. See Resources for links to excellent quality foam rollers that I really like.
2. What kind of rolling and when?
Before a workout: Robust Rolling
Rolling quickly with broad swoops will bring blood flow to the area, light up your sensory receptors and prepare you for the demands to come, whether you are about to go for a jog, start a weight lifting session or swim laps at the pool. Plus it feels invigorating! Here is an example of rolling the quadriceps: Pre-Workout Foam Rolling for Quads
After a workout: Release Rolling
Rolling slowly with pressure will create shear between the fascial layers and renew hydration of the tissue. It’s like wringing out a dirty sponge and allowing fresh water from your blood plasma to re-hydrate and renew your fascia. Be sure to incorporate mindfulness by relaxing into the sensation and keep your breath spacious and fluid. This type of foam rolling can be intense but should not cause you to clench your teeth, tighten your shoulders or hold your breath. Take your time as you slowly work tangentially along your soft tissue and roll about 1 millimeter per breath. Check out this example of a potential post workout practice: The right way to foam roll your IT band… Don’t just mash it! This type of true fascial hydration is so super slow, you may not have time to complete it. However, post workout, slow foam rolling has many benefits such as reducing soreness and decreasing stress.
3. When to do Trigger Point Rolling:
Janet Travell, MD and David Simons, MD in their book Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction defined a trigger point as “A hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band. The spot is painful on compression and can give rise to characteristic referred pain, referred tenderness, motor dysfunction, and autonomic phenomena.”. *
Foam rolling can help to diminish the pain associated with these spots and bring relief to the affected area. In an 2016 interview with me, Divo Mueller, naturopath and body therapist and her husband Robert Schleip, MD and Co Founders of Fascial Fitness, stated that it is permissible to “look for and rest on” trigger points with both methods of foam rolling pre- and post- workout.
You’ll know when you’ve found a trigger point because the sensitivity can send you flying off your roller, screaming! Here is where the density is of primary importance. Be sure you can relax into the sensation, even if it requires some deep concentration. If you can’t envision melting the trigger point while resting on it, find a softer foam roller or get as close to the trigger point as you can, while staying relaxed. In future sessions, you can continue to explore this area to get closer to the offensive spot until the discomfort is eventually diminished or eliminated. Continuing to “push through” the pain will only put you at risk for increased tension.
Once your are on the perfect foam roller for you needs, rest on each spot for about 30-90 seconds or until the discomfort starts to dissipate.
Learn more about Trigger Point work in The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, NCTMB and Amber Davies, CMPT, LMT.
Learn More about Fascia: Fascia Research Society
Foam rollers I like:
Robert Schleip and Divo Meuller Fascial Fitness
Rachelle Clauson, Nationally Board Certified and State Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Fascial Fitness Trainer
Nicole Detellis, Owner of Fuse Yoga & Fitness 200ERYT and Certified Fasical Fitness Trainer
* David Lesondak, Master trainer speaking at The Fascial Fitness Introductory Course Dec 2014 Wenham, MA
* VOLUME 1 SECOND EDITION MYOFASCIAL PAIN AND DYSFUNCTION THE TRIGGER POINT MANUAL By: David G. Simons, M.D., Janet G. Travell, M.D. and Lois S. Simons, P.T.
Kerry Madden is a Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist with certifications from NASM, TRX, Fasical Fitness, STOTT Pilates and CFSC.