Q&A: How do you foam roll?

By: David Wu

Waterloo strength

K-money showing us where the money is at.

We got a question from Roshanth Rajachandrakumar on the facebook group about the proper way to foam roll:

“Is there a proper way to foam roll? For example: should you keep the roll on a pressure point for 30 secs then continue rolling while stopping at other pressure points OR just keep slowly rolling in a rhythmic way?”

For people who don’t know, foam rolling, or the general term: myofascial release, is basically self-massage. What it does is loosen up knots or trigger points which are areas of unusual tightness in the myofascia (myo = muscle, fascia = the surrounding connective tissue).

These knots are highly sensitive! They develop either from muscle overuse or movement compensation. Release them and be rewarded with an increase in range of motion, decreased tension and possible pain relief.

As in all things science, what actually happens when you foam roll or why a trigger point occurs is still up for debate and the subject of lots of research. Check out this book if you’re interested in reading further.

Search & Destroy

waterloo strength

I normally begin foam rolling by doing large strokes (called “passes”) over the affected muscle. Once I’ve identified a “hot spot”, I will focus in on that particular area with small, targeted strokes. For really tough areas, I will just hold position and let the muscle “melt”  over (it’s really fun with a lacross ball).

The reason to focus on just the trigger points is because those are the areas which are most dense, and the idea is to have uniform muscle density. Rolling the whole muscle doesn’t accomplish this and doesn’t really do anything.

That’s the gist of self-myofascial release, whether you use a foam roller, a stick, lacross ball, or PVC pipe. Of course, there are more “advanced” techniques which involve combining foam rolling AND stretching.

Waterloo conditioning

Yes, it’s literally called “the stick”

Remember that the goal is to achieve balance between left and right leg, so if one side is more tender, spend some more time on it. Of course, stretch afterwards.

Lastly, back up your new found mobility with some sort of stability exercise like chops and lifts so you don’t find yourself a lifetime slave to the foam roller.


Had any miraculous experiences of questions about foam rolling? Feel free to comment below and be sure to check us out at our facebook page!

warriors strengthDavid Wu is  VP of WARRIORS S&C and an editor at The Personal Trainer Development Centre. When he’s not trying to uncover the TRUTH behind health and fitness, he’s busy training clients out of Waterloo & Toronto. He has a fanatical interest in sport performance enhancement and getting people moving well and out of pain. He’d love for you to add him on facebook and email him with any questions. Check out his blog, The KINESIS project.



Filed under Articles, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Q&A: How do you foam roll?

  1. Josh

    When I had no idea what I was doing for foam rolling I followed this t-nation article. It never let me down.


  2. Pingback: Breathe! The key to relaxing in BJJ « The KINESIS Project

  3. Pingback: BREATHE

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