How To Foam Roll After A Workout
Learning how to use a foam roller after a hard workout (especially a running workout) was a game changer for me and my clients. I had been running twice per week as well as lifting three times (check out my regular workout split here) and was having some serious calf pain during everything. While stretching and mobility work were keeping the injury at bay, I knew I needed a new solution. By learning how to foam roll properly after a workout and specifically which muscles to roll, I was not only able to fix my calf and ankle issue but my clients got to enjoy the benefits as well!
When it comes to foam rolling after a workout, you need to keep in mind that fascia works in conjunction with your muscles, they are not two separate entities. Which means, the best benefits are often seen with a combination of foam rolling and light stretching.
In my experience, stretching immediately after the workout and foam rolling at some point that day seems to work okay. So long as what I was rolling targeted the muscles I used. But if you have the time after a workout- rock it.
Meaning, if I did a back workout in the morning, it makes little sense to be rolling out my calves that evening.
The trick to making foam rolling work for you is to learn which muscles should be worked when. Below is a list of commonly rolled muscles, and ones I’ve seen the best success with, and when to roll them.
Muscles To Foam Roll After A Workout
- Calves – you can foam roll your calves after any leg workout but especially if you’re a runner. Unknown tight calves were the issue that I needed to fix initially when I was having problems running (they pulled on my knee and thus caused knee pain)
- Quadriceps & Hip Flexors – These can be rolled pretty frequently regardless of your workout as they often carry too much strain. Obviously roll them on a workout day but more often than not quadriceps are used too much because other muscles are weak, rolling out the quads can help other muscles learn to do their jobs
- Hamstrings – for most people hamstrings do not need to be rolled. If you’ve directly worked them that day and want to increase blood flow to them- roll them. Otherwise, there’s better muscles to spend time on.
- IT Band – If you’re a runner, you may want to roll this one. Your IT band is responsible for stabilization- it doesn’t need to be long and stretchy (and it never will be). However, one of the muscles of your quadriceps (vastus lateralis) lies directly under your IT band and often does need to be rolled and released, especially if you’re experiencing pain on the outside of your knee.
- Glutes – there are a lot of components of your glutes and a lot of ways to roll them. Most people’s glutes tend to be weak. Mine, however, tend to stay contracted so for me, rolling them is beneficial. Since glute play such a pivotal roll in posture (read why your back hurts) and performance, it’s worth figuring out if they need some help.
- Chest – one I recommend rolling for nearly everyone. Our chest muscles are often very tight due to poor posture and giving them some help can make a world of difference.
- Thoracic Spine – I’ll be writing a follow blog at some point on this topic but for now my advice is this: your upper back most likely has some mobility issues. Most people’s do. If you’ve used it in a workout that day, roll it. Otherwise, there are some specific exercises and stretches you can do using a foam roller that will make a big difference.
There are many other muscles to foam roll (adductors, lats etc) but the ones above are best for beginners and for targeted workouts.
When people chat about being fit, far too often we think of looking a certain way, lifting a specific amount or enduring something time related. But being fit and healthy is so much more than that (and there are much better goals to strive for than weight loss!). staying injury free, being mobile as we age and continuing to be able to do the things, we love are all factors also. And learning to foam roll properly after a workout helps promote all of those benefits.
When I was a brand-new personal trainer (almost a decade ago now, jeesh!) I didn’t really understand how to foam roll or even what the purpose of it was.
Oh sure, I could reiterate what I’d been told: “it helps release tension in your fascia!”, “it’ll reduce muscle soreness”, just roll around on this random, hard piece of equipment without any guidance and it’ll work wonders!
And so, I rolled post workout. I rolled random muscle groups (gotta loosen up that IT band!), I rolled super fast because it felt crappy, and I rolled with no real direction as to wtf I was doing.
I saw little to no benefits (who would have thought?!), I hated it and eventually my foam roller sat in the corner to be used as a stand for my camera.
And then, unfortunately years later, I read a book: The Complete Guide To Foam Rolling (Kyle Stull)
And how to foam roll (and why the hell I should) finally clicked.
The book was super easy to read, insanely funny in parts and definitely helpful.
After that I began a bit of a foam rolling routine. But it wasn’t until I was having issues running that I really learned how to foam roll and the insane benefits it can provide.
- Minimize injury
- Improve mobility
- Boost performance
- Enhance recovery
A little more complex than “foam roll to help your fascia”.
By implementing a specific rolling routine each day for ten minutes, I was able to recover from my runs as well as prevent pain during them. This was a pretty big deal to me!
But this wasn’t done by randomly rolling around on a hard surface for thirty seconds and expecting something awesome.
Foam rolling can help reduce injury by keeping your muscles mobile and able to function optimally. It helps reduce tension within the body and keeps the fascia healthy. Since your fascia and muscle work together, it helps keep the system running as a whole unit, thus boosting performance and enhancing recovery (and you can grab a roller at Prosourcefit.com and use code “mamabear15” to save you some money!).
How To Foam Roll
Foam rolling is far more about trigger points than it is anything else. Once you choose your muscle group, you’ve got to move slowly over it. It’s not a race to see how fast you can get through it.
- Place the muscle group you wish to roll onto the foam roller
- Very slowly roll through the muscle
- When you come to a tight spot, a spot that’s uncomfortable, hold there for thirty to sixty seconds taking deep breaths
- Once that spot is done, continue to move through the muscle repeating the step above for any other hard areas
You can adjust the pressure on the point by adjusting your bodyweight. After holding for thirty seconds, continue through the muscle stopping at any other trigger points you find and repeat the hold.
This is obviously a bit more time consuming that simply pressing your body into a hard roller and quickly moving up and down in pain.
It’s also more effective.
According to the book, and in my own experience, you can foam roll every day and see a lot of benefits- depending on what you choose to roll.
This doesn’t mean that you need to roll out your entire body daily, but you can group your muscles and rotate through them.
Like any other goal, consistency is key.
Don’t forget to pin these tips on how to foam roll after a workout!
Foam rolling isn’t always simple. Learning how to foam rolling and staying consistent with it is what will give you the most benefits. In my experience, it can be used the most to help prevent a full-blown injury (if you notice something feeling off- fix it, don’t ignore it!) as well as help relieve and correctly postural pain and issues. Like everything else, find a system that works FOR YOU and rock it. –>Don’t forget to grab a roller at Prosourcefit.com (use code “mamabear15” to save you some money!).
Quick Tip: My go-to store for equipment is Pro Source! They have awesome gear at fair prices.. plus, if you use the code “mamabear15” you save fifteen percent on the best price on the site – win!