Learning to foam roll properly and effectively can offer many health benefits and is an easy pre- or post-workout routine. Here’s everything you need to know to get started. 

What is foam rolling? 

Foam rolling is an effective recovery practice that is beneficial no matter what exercises you’re doing or what your health and fitness goals are. Foam rolling is also called “Self-Myofascial Release” (SMR) and is essentially the act of using body weight and simple tools to loosen up tight fascia (the connective tissue that wraps around muscles and internal organs to support and separate them). It also has the added benefit of increasing blood flow. By applying pressure to tight fascia, you’re helping to break up the tension-much like you would experience in a deep tissue massage.

What equipment do I need?  

Depending on the areas you’re targeting and what level of pressure you’re looking for, there are a few different options for tools. The most common one is the foam roller -- a cylinder covered in foam that is either smooth or can have bumps or ridges on the outside. There are also stick rollers, massage balls and lacrosse balls which can be used to pinpoint stubborn areas.  

Beginners should consider starting with the slightly softer foam roller. Foam rollers are able to cover more surface area and are a less painful, friendlier entry point to SMR than balls, sticks and other tools. You’ll either want a yoga mat on the floor, a comfortable place to sit, or a space of wall that you can lean against, depending what area of the body you’re working on. 

How do I foam roll?

The first thing to keep in mind is that foam rolling uses body weight, and this should be your guide when rolling any area of the body.  

Here are some tips to keep in mind when foam rolling: 

  • It will hurt (so good) and be uncomfortable, but stick with it and you’ll reap the rewards afterwards. 
  • Be sure to spend at least one minute on each body part to make sure you’re actually being effective. 
  • Always brace your core to ensure your spine is supported, especially when targeting the back. 
  • Breathe. Make sure to breathe deeply (four counts in, hold for a breath, then six seconds out) as you allow your muscles to sink into the tool of choice.  

Foam rolling your glutes: 

  • Start by sitting on the foam roller, knees bent with your feet on the ground in front of you.
  • Shift or lean slightly so that your weight is on your right leg, then begin to slowly roll forward and backwards over the length of the glute (you may need to lean back slightly to get the top).
  • Complete at least one minute on the right side before switching to the left. 

Foam rolling your thoracic spine (upper back):

  • Start by lying on the ground with the foam roller under your shoulder blades, keeping most of your weight on your butt.  
  • When you’re ready, bend your knees, brace the core and lift your hips while slightly tucking your hips up (like doing a mini crunch) to protect your spine. Transfer your body weight so it’s mostly resting on the foam roller.
  • Keep your knees bent and use your feet to slowly push and pull your upper body across the foam roller from the shoulder blades to mid back.  

Once you try some of these foam rolling moves, you’ll start to feel the difference as you manage to release muscles. Check out these tips to start to target other parts of your body. Regular practice can help you relax your muscles and perform better in your workouts. Let’s get rolling.