How Do You Really Use a Foam Roller?

BlogAssets_FoamRolling_v4Whether you’ve never used a foam roller before or have given it a spin but weren’t sure you were doing it right, you probably have a few questions on what exactly it’s supposed to achieve. We asked a few experts for their take on the best uses for the foam roller, from the ideal time to use it to what’s happening when you’re rolling your body over it.

What are foam rollers?
Fitness instructor Henry Halse says foam rollers are, well, basically what they sound like: cylinders of hard foam, 30-90cm in length. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different densities. The firmer the foam, the more painful it might be to use. Start with a softer foam roller to figure out what level you’re ready for, especially if you feel tight.

Why should I use one?
According to personal trainer Trisha DaCosta, foam rolling is a technique used to release muscle tightness and trigger points, bringing the muscle back to a healthy state. The technique is useful before a workout since it loosens things up, as well as after a workout to massage the muscles. It can also be used in between workouts to keep your body fresh, limber and healthy. If you sit at a desk all day, the foam roller is an absolute must, since it works to relieve the tension that builds up all day.

Which muscles are foam-rollable?
Halse recommends foam rolling your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, adductors, lats, chest and upper back. Avoid foam rolling your lower back, which could lead to injury, and don’t directly foam roll over joints, like your knees.

How do I foam roll correctly?
Foam rollers should be used on the floor. “You essentially want to use your body weight as pressure to roll back and forth over muscles,” Halse explains. “Put the body part you want to work on the roller, and roll it back and forth at least 10 times.” Make sure you do both sides to make it even.

What if it hurts?
“You may find a spot that is particularly painful,” Halse says. That’s because the muscle you’ve landed on is  tight and needs to be loosened up. “Stay on that spot, breathe and relax until it is less painful, then continue rolling,” he recommends.

How often should I be foam rolling?
Ideally, you should foam roll several times a week, says fitness author Jennifer DeCurtins. “Spend about 30 seconds on each muscle group, and increase that time for areas where you experience tightness and pain,” she says.

Will it make my workout better?
Erm yes, it will. When you’re at class, you want your body to perform at its full potential, right? “As part of dynamic warm-up, foam rolling applies pressure to the knots and pressure points in our body,” DaCosta explains, “and opens them up to allow us to perform our workout at our most optimal state.”

Danielle Page is the founder of, a blog that provides necessary information for navigating the awkward phase of adulthood known as “quarterlife.” Danielle’s work has been featured on Woman’s Day, Your Tango, Mandatory, The New York Times, Thought Catalog and the Huffington Post.