Foam rolling is one of the easiest and most cost effective way to help your body with tight muscles, aches and pains and as a pre/post-workout treatment. At Train for Life, we advocate that our clients show up early to loosen up muscle density with the foam rollers before beginning any stretching and dynamic warm up work. As explained by one of my mentors, Mike Boyle, if you think of your muscle as two different thicknesses of rubber-bands tied together, when you pull on the bands, the you will get length out of less dense band and tighten the knot. This is illustrated below by Mike himself:
Obviously, this may not seem like a desired result so in order to help eliminate trigger points/knots in the muscle, we want to work them out with the foam roller or one of our self-massage tools. Spending 5-10 minutes on this pre- and post-workout is what I recommend to all of my clients. Foam rolling can be painful at first, but typically it is a sign that it is needed! Many times, non-contact joint injuries and pain, is due to tightness in the muscle above or below the joint, such as knee pain caused by a tight IT Band.
When you begin your foam rolling, you are applying pressure to the major muscle groups by rolling back and forth on top of the roller. In doing so, you are looking to find any area of discomfort. Once these areas are identified, you'll want to work on these areas in order to reduce pressure in the muscle. Because this can often be painful, you'll want to work on a pain scale of 1 to 10 without exceeding 7 or 8. Beginners will sometimes want to start out with a lighter density roller and work their way up as the muscle quality begins to improve.
Whether you are looking to feel better or you want to improve your mobility and flexibility in your sport, foam rolling should be done daily along with a sound stretching and mobility routine. You can see the video below on how I demonstrate some of the major areas to work on with the foam roller.