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What is Foam Rolling?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023


The History

Foam Rolling has been around for a while and has continued past being a fad. I learned about foam rolling while getting my National Academy of Sports Medicine personal training certification. The popular gym chain I worked at followed NASM’S guidelines and required the trainers to teach every client how to foam roll before and after each workout.


What is foam rolling and why is it helpful for you and your clients in a massage setting?

Chances are you already know some or all of this information. If so, look at this as a friendly refresher. Foam rolling, also known as “Self-MyoFascial Release”, is a form of self-massage. Foam rolling requires you to utilize your own body weight to roll over muscles using a cylinder shaped foam core. This targets the fascia and helps smooth out tension and tightness in the muscles and connective tissues. As you know massage also improves the tone and texture of muscle & connective tissues resulting in better range of motion and the release of pain and restrictions within the body. Massage clients encouraged to consistently foam roll will help improve the results of their treatment sessions and feel better in between each session.

You can foam roll your whole body. I’ve taught a few foam rolling workshops and we foam roll for 2 hours from our feet to our forehead. The next day I always feel as if I had been given a massage. Now, I know we don’t have 2 hours to foam roll the tops of our feet and arm pits everyday but it’s worth dedicating 20 minutes (or more time if you have it!) to sore muscles. Foam rolling done consistently will make a positive difference in your body.


How do I foam roll?

The best way to foam roll is to roll lightly and very slowly along the body part being rolled out. When a tender spot is located pause for 30 seconds to a few minutes. I like to say, stay for as long as you can handle the pain or until the tenderness subsides. Feel free to roll around the muscle group after pausing and releasing adhesions to help further massage and love on the area. Fascia releases best in a gentle way, so no need to kill yourself trying to apply deep tissue with the foam roller. Not sure how to foam roll a certain muscle? Feel free to ask me, google, search foam rolling videos on YouTube or better yet roll around with your foam roller and find whatever works for you.

Case Study

I will leave you with a conversation I had with a client about his foam rolling experience. When I first met Roger* he had been referred to me for help with his back. He was in a lot of pain from sitting at a computer all day with terrible posture. He had developed many different sized adhesions along either side of his spine and his lower back was very tight and locked up.


I suggested he foam roll his back daily and explained why it would help him. Over a matter of months we managed to work out a lot of his issues beginning with weekly massage sessions. He also suffered from severe PTSD and massage was a very last resort for him. Once Roger began feeling better, I saw less and less of him until he was no longer on my books.


After about a year he came in for a massage. I assumed he’d be a mess and need a lot of work. After applying oil and getting started with the massage, I asked him where he’d been going to get massages. He assured me he’d seen only me. Confused, I explained it was totally ok if he’d gotten massages somewhere else. He insisted he’d seen me last year and no one else. Based on the great condition of his back with little to no adhesions, I wanted to know what he’d been up to to have so little to work on? He replied, "I’ve just been foam rolling everyday!"


So dust off your foam roller and start rolling your way to some happy muscles. Your massage therapist will be impressed!


*Roger’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

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