Foam rolling is typically known as a post-workout ritual, but there are many benefits to doing it before a workout, too. Two of our Aaptiv Trainers, Jennifer Giamo and Candice Cunningham, tell us why we should foam roll before our workouts.
Benefits of Foam Rolling
“Foam rolling is a form of self-massage or myofascial release,” Giamo says. “It helps to break up adhesions or scar tissue that form in muscles as a result of repetitive movements (i.e., exercise). By foam rolling, you can increase blood flow to the tissues and improve mobility, which aids in recovery and performance. It helps to reduce tightness in muscles so that they can move through a range of motion with ease.”
Cunningham adds, “Foam rolling helps release these [adhesions] and allows them to work the way they should.” By simultaneously preparing your muscles for your next workout and helping them recover faster from your previous one, you can decrease your risk of injury.
Giamo notes that a foam roller “can also be used as a workout tool itself! There are different exercises that can be performed on the foam roller, such as balance, stability, and core work.”
Is it better to foam roll before or after a workout?
Our Aaptiv trainers agree that you should do both. Giamo explains, “Foam rolling prior to a workout will help build heat. [It’ll also] decrease muscle density, which will allow for a better warm-up prior to exercise.” Cunningham adds that foam rolling is a better warm-up than static stretching. “It gets the blood flowing to the muscle and works out any tight spots for better mobility.”
Where and how should I foam roll?
As Cunningham says, “You can foam roll almost every muscle in your body.” You’re not limited to one place, though common areas include hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Giamo explains, “The goal is to stretch and loosen the fascia surrounding the muscles. So it can be done on any muscle that feels restricted in movement, sore, or tight.”
Use the foam roller to find these trigger points or knots. Roll back and forth over them for a few seconds each—but not too long. “You want to roll along the length of the muscle and put as much bodyweight into it as possible,” Cunningham says. Giamo adds, “The movement should be slow and controlled. Otherwise, the muscles won’t have time to adapt to the pressure and you won’t release the tension.”
Foam rolling can be uncomfortable because you’re applying pressure to sore or tight points in your muscles. However, it shouldn’t be excruciating. It’s important to distinguish between good pressure and the bad pain that indicates something is wrong. If you find that the pain is too much for you, then Cunningham recommends seeing a professional. Foam rolling should have the same feeling as a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage.
“You can adjust the amount of pressure by modifying the positions or using your hands to support your weight if you’re doing lower body rolling,” Giamo says. But be careful not to push too hard. “It’s important to feel slight discomfort for foam rolling to be effective…but sustained pressure on a sensitive area for too long can cause damage to the tissue or could hit a nerve.”
A few more words of advice from Cunningham: She recommends being cautious around your lower back and neck. “These are very delicate areas of muscle, bones, and tendons.”
Don’t forget to foam roll after your workout, too!
Cunningham explains, “Recovery is just as, if not more, important than some workouts themselves, and many of us don’t implement it enough.”
So, yes, while you should foam roll before your workout, don’t skip it after training as well. “It’s very good to help with muscle repair and a great, inexpensive way to aid recovery,” Cunningham says.
“Rolling post-workout can help in recovery and possibly decrease soreness or shorten the amount of time a muscle feels sore,” Giamo explains. Don’t let delayed onset muscle soreness get in the way of your next workout!