Rules of the Roll

Post By Christy Johnson, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, Nourish NorthwestIMG_5294

Last week we talked about what self-myofascial release is and some of the benefits of adding it into your fitness and wellness routine. To check out that post click here.

Now that we understand why we should be using a foam roller, it is important to know some basic rules.

Rule #1: A foam rolling session can take place before and/or after your workout, and last no more than 10 minutes (depending on how many problem spots in your body you find to work on.) One session a day is plenty as you don’t want to overstress your body’s soft tissue by mashing it around for too long.

Rule #2: Use your time to assess those problem areas you find. When you hit a particularly tight spot, focus more attention to that area as you roll. If you can get it to relax, great! If it doesn’t seem to relax using the roller, then it may be time to try a different modality like massage or acupuncture to get that spot to release.

Rule #3: Go slow. As torturous as it may be on certain parts of your body, it is important to move very slowly over the roller. For example, spend 1 whole minute rolling out your left IT Band, from the hip to knee. If you find a “special” spot, hold there for 15-20 seconds to see if you can relax that part of the tissue, then move on…slowly.


Rule #4: Don’t roll too hard. Using a foam roller should be slightly uncomfortable, but it should not be the most painful thing ever. As you foam roll you should be able to breathe and hold a conversation. If you find yourself holding your breath or unable to think about anything other than how much pain you are in, you are putting too much body weight onto the roller! Lighten up the pressure! Remember if you can’t get a certain spot to feel any better, it might be time for a massage or some other form of tissue work.


Rule #5: Direction of travel/rolling could be important, but this point is still disputed amongst the scientific fitness community. For example if you are foam rolling along your spine, it is better to travel up from your hips towards your head, allowing your spine to decompress. Rolling in the other direction, from your head to your hips, would compress the spine. It is also believed that rolling from the origin of any muscle to its insertion is better for tissue release. An example of this is when rolling out your IT band/quads you would want to travel from the hip to the knee, not the other way.


Hopefully these 5 rules will help as you begin or continue on your foam rolling journey. If you would like more hands-on guidance and practice then please join us on Sunday, March 20th at 1pm for a 75 minute workshop on the practice and benefits of self-myofascial release. We will go over tips, tricks, and strategies on how to use a foam roller and lacrosse ball to release and relax all the problem areas of your body, leaving you rejuvenated and moving better! Handouts with the covered release exercises will be provided so you can continue your practice at home.  Click here to register under the workshops tab!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.