It seems like every gym has an abundance of foam rollers lying around. They're a great tool to use before or after a workout or when you just really need to give your sore muscles some TLC. But most people don't know that there is a correct way to foam roll — and it's only when you do it the right way that you see (and feel) the positive results.
"A lot of people roll back and forth or 'knead' their muscles on the roller, instead of holding pressure on the tender spots," Diksha Gautham, NASM, CPT, explained to POPSUGAR. "Many people roll too quickly, and most of us naturally tend to tense up instead of relaxing during the foam rolling process." In fact, if you look around the gym, this is exactly how you see most people using their foam roller.
Tensing up when you're foam rolling is counterintuitive to what you're trying to accomplish, though. "It's important to try your hardest to let your muscles relax in order to get the most out of foam rolling," Diksha said. That's why you should focus on one spot; that allows you to really hone in and ease into it.
So what's the correct way to foam roll? Here's what Diksha has to say: "Roll slowly on the roller until you find a tender spot on your muscle. Hold the pressure there for around 20-30 seconds, until the uncomfortable feeling begins to slowly reduce. Keep rolling on your muscle until you find a few of these uncomfortable spots, and repeat."
If you've never done it this way before, you're in for a really, er, memorable experience. It can be quite painful at first, especially if your muscles are really tight, but if you stick with it, you'll reap the many rewards in the long run. Diksha told POPSUGAR that foam rolling can "remove knots and free up our muscle tissue to move optimally."
"When we sit in one position for a long time, have poor posture, or do repetitive movements, the soft tissue in our muscle forms adhesions or 'knots' that lead to muscle imbalances and injury," she continued. "Foam rolling regularly can help you become more flexible, help your muscles recover faster, and help you move more efficiently. It's great to include in your warm up to increase your range of motion and prevent the risk of injury."