Foam rolling has been shown to significantly reduce muscle soreness and promote recovery post-exercise. Positive results were found by foam rolling up to 24 hours post-exercise; however, the quicker you foam roll, the quicker the body can begin to respond and recover. It has also been shown to be effective before an activity as a form of stretching to warm up for the given activity.
In an ideal world, foam rolling each muscle for 30 seconds is the most beneficial, but if you aim to target the whole body, this can be a lengthy process. Therefore, if you aim for full body, drop the time to 10-15 seconds to encourage you to do it rather than give in. Foam rolling is perfect for most of the body; just avoid the stomach, joints and your head! You also don’t want to be too speedy, aim to roll from one end of a muscle to the other for approximately 2 seconds. Once you reach the end of the muscle, move back in the opposite direction in one fluent motion. If there is a specific spot that is exceptionally tender, spend more time in this area.
I won’t sugar coat it, foam rolling may be painful. If you’ve ever had a sports massage, it’s not nearly as painful as this but can still inflict a fair amount of pain. In response to exercise, muscle tissue can become very tight. The aim of foam rolling is to loosen these muscles. If your muscles are really tight then you want to start with supporting your body. For example if you’re foam rolling your hamstring, be sure to place your other foot on the ground to take some of the weight. As the muscle eases, you can place one leg on top of the other to put more pressure on and get deeper into the muscle tissue.
There are a few different types of foam rollers. The ones that I would recommend are the hollow ones with a dense, knobbly exterior. Flat foam rollers are made predominantly to use for exercises such as during yoga, whereas the bumpy foam rollers are made for recovery. This shape allows the roller to get deeper into the muscle tissue to aid recovery.
Top tip: just like exercise, don’t forget to breathe throughout!