Foam Rolling Fundamentals

If you have been consistent in the gym for the past five to ten years I am sure that you have noticed that foam rolling has become a huge part of the fitness agenda. Unlike other overnight fitness methodologies it seems as if this one will be sticking around for a while. For me, I feel that foam rolling is a topic that I still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to completely understanding its role in the topic of soft tissue work as a whole. As a matter of fact I have to confess that there was little to no curriculum on the subject in my early days of personal training education. However, soft tissue work has become a big topic of interest for me over the years and I have become a big fan of integrating self myofascial release into the programming of the people I work with. While building the Move Improve app, foam rolling instruction was also a key part of the programming goals. There is still a lot to learn about when it comes to foam rolling. However, I cannot argue with the results that I have witnessed with proper foam rolling when it comes to restoring movement, reducing pain, and contributing to performance. In my eyes, nothing will ever top a set of trained hands, eyes, and judgement when it comes to soft tissue work, but the ability to familiarize and integrate foam rolling into your programming will certainly add some positives to the productivity, quality, and longevity of your training. These are some of my favorite cues when it comes to putting the foam roller into practice.


Anyone who has experience with the roller will tell you that its a horrible feeling. I can tell you first hand it wasn't pleasant. However, pain is not meant to be the badge of honor it is sometimes perceived to be when it comes to foam rolling. I see a lot of red faces and overbites when people jump onto a roller. This is usually a sign of being locked up. If the objective of foam rolling is to mobilize tissue, keep in mind that staying rigid can be counterproductive. Find a threshold that can keep you relaxed and breathing. You will still feel some considerable pressure, but at least it will be doing its job and you won't be wearing down your molars due to the pain.

Remember To Breathe It Will Only Hurt A Little

Melt The Muscle

One of my favorite concepts that I stole from the brilliant Thomas Myers. A continuation of relaxation is the ability to grasp the concept of melting. There are different layers of fascia to be addressed when foam rolling. Jumping right onto the roller and going for it may provide some quick relief for the more superficial fascia, but in order to address the deeper layers you need to take your time. Continue relaxing, breathing, and using reasonable pressure will allow you to feel the sensation of digging deeper into the muscle. I look at it in the sense that a tough piece of meat comes out more tender when it is slow cooked rather than thrown on a hot grill.

Change Your Angles

When rolling, keep in mind that muscles can be moved in multiple directions. One of the common habits that I see is roam rolling becomes a strict up and down movement. If you have ever had any manual soft tissue work done you will know that a therapist will move your tissue in all sorts of directions depending on what needs to be addressed. The same can be done with the roller. While I find the IT Band is an abused piece of the body when it comes to rolling it is a good example of this as it is in between the lateral portion of the quadriceps and the hamstring. This means there can be adhesion within each of those meridians so rather than rolling strictly on top, the ability to move it laterally may be the answer to what you are actually trying to address. This brings me to my next point.

Think Beyond Just The IT Band

Remember that what you are rolling is only a small part of the puzzle. The IT Band is the perfect example of this because I am convinced that some people believe that foam rolling was invented for the IT Band. If something is tight why is it tight? Did an IT Band just decide to become tight or are their limitations at the hip and ankle that are triggering it? While foam rolling provides some quick gratification remember that there are principles of mobility, stability, balances in strength, and movement behavior that all play factors in why you are rolling what you are rolling.

Emphasize The Joints

Your joints are responsible for the limitless vectors of movement that you are capable of. Either overusing or under using them can cause you grief. Give your tissue close to the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder some preferential treatment in order to restore movement and circulation in and around the joint.

Just like any other factors in well being such as heart health or dental health, some daily maintenance of your soft tissue can go a long way in keeping your body healthy. It can play a big role in the maintenance of muscular and skeletal balance as well as maintain fluid external and internal movement. While nothing beats a set of hands from a skilled practitioner, foam rolling can provide a big boost to the well being of your body.