Incorporating foam rolling into your exercise routine can be a great way to up your fitness game — and prevent potential injuries. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. The National Academy of Sports Medicine explains self-myofascial release as gently applying force to a knot or tender spot so the muscle fibers have a chance to release. Trust us, the foam rolling is a painful but worthwhile practice.
While foam rolling is an important part of your regimen, there are a few common mistakes that might prevent you from getting the full benefit of self-myofascial release — or might even injure you in the process.
You’re rolling too much
Are you rolling too quickly on the foam roller? Despite the name, foam rolling is less about the rolling action and more about the release. Instead of going super fast, focus on one tender spot at a time.
You’re not allowing a release to happen.
While rolling back and forth can feel like a nice massage, the magic (and release!) happens when you hold the foam roller in one place. Once you find a tender spot or knot, hold pressure there with the foam roller for at least 30 seconds in order to let the muscle release.
You tense up
Foam rolling can be painful stuff — but don’t tense up! Instead focus on breathing through the pain so you can fully release your body onto the foam roller. This will help get the knots and kinks out more efficiently.
Your form is off.
It’s tempting to contort your body into weird positions just to target one particular knot. Be careful of potentially injuring your body because your form is off while foam rolling. Just like you wouldn’t hike your shoulders up towards your ears during a bicep curl, you also want to maintain good form here. Continue to brace your core, much like you would during any other exercise, and avoid putting unnecessary weight on your wrists.
You only foam roll after working out.
Foam rolling after working out is a great way to cool-down and stretch but it’s actually more effective if you integrate foam rolling into your warm-up.
A study in the International Journal of Exercise Science indicated that SMR was effective at improving power, agility, strength and speeded compared to warm-up consisting of dynamic movements alone. Before working out, take a few minutes to break up any knots in your muscles. It will make your workout more powerful in the end and also help you avoid injury.