The Dreaded Foam Roller – It Hurts so Good!

Types of Foam Rollers

Types of Foam Rollers

For those of you who use a foam roller on a regular basis, you most likely understand that it is truly a love hate relationship lol.  It can at times literally bring you to tears, however, is truly essential to performance and recovery – and I highly recommend it (and I promise you, it always feel amazing after a good foam rolling session!)

So, what is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a technique of self myofaciscal release (SMR). This form of stretching utilizes the concept of autogenic inhibition to improve soft tissue extensibility, thus relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle (Wikipedia)….say what? haha so in layman’s terms:

Foam rolling is sort of like a deep tissue massage, and works by returning your muscles and soft tissue to their native form. As you may or may not know, exercise, injury, and the rigors of life can cause knots in your muscle and soft tissue that restrict mobility and performance. By smashing those knots (with a foam roller) and allowing soft tissue to operate correctly again, foam rolling increases range of motion and improves workout performance (awesome!).

Here are a few additional interesting facts [2]:

“In a research paper that studied the acute effects of SMR on the lower extremity plyometric performance the author found that:

  • Foam rolling flexibility was increased by 12.7% after 2 minutes and by 10.3% after ten minutes
  • Foam rolling did not negatively affect muscle activation, and contractile force properties. This was the opposite to that seen from regular massage and static stretching.
  • Foam rolling improved the correlation between range of motion and force production.
  • See more at:”

Types of Foam Rollers:

As you can see from the image above, there are lots of options when it comes to foam rollers.  I think it’s definitely a good idea to try one out before you buy it (if you can), especially when it comes to deciding the level of firmness. The decision of firmness should be based on your experience-level with the foam roller. Most foam rollers are color coded according to firmness. White rollers are the softest (least painful), followed by blue or green rollers of medium density and black foam rollers, which are the firmest (most painful – but this is good!).  Some experienced foam rollers even switch in a lacrosse ball to increase the firmness (I’m definitely not there yet haha).


I personally went with the j/Fit Super HIgh Density Foam Roller, and I love it, I’ve had it for years and still works wonders!

Foam Rolling Techniques for Runners (my faves):

Here are some of my favorite foam rolling techniques (I usually focus on quads, hamstrings, and IT band) [3]:

IT Band: Lie on your side with the roller near your hip, rest your other leg’s foot on the floor. Move along your outer thigh. Increase pressure by stacking your legs

IT Band

Hamstrings: Place the roller under your thighs. Roll from the knees to the buttocks. To increase the pressure, roll one leg at time, turning your leg in and out.


Quadriceps: Lie on your stomach with a roller placed under the front of your thigh and slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee.


Quick Tip: I once learned from a Crossfit Trainer, that the best way to increase the effectiveness of foam rolling, is to foam roll a muscle then immediately stretch it (so that you are helping elongate the muscle). So for example I’ll foam roll my quad, then do a quad stretch, then foam roll the quad again and immediately stretch it (and just continue this until I’m done with the quad, and repeat the process for my hamstring).  I don’t have any science to back it up, but I think it helps!

Great Intro Video to Some Foam Rolling Techniques:

What are your favorite foam roller exercises?







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