The Dreaded Foam Roller

How many people do you know who use a foam roller to reduce stiffness and relieve ‘tight’ achy muscles?

……….if your active and involved in sports then I’m guessing quite a few.

How many do you think are using it correctly?

….. probably very few.

Foam rollers became very popular a few years back and every GAA player, cyclist and runner got on the band wagon and  started throwing one into their gear bag.  However a lot of them probably were never instructed fully in how to use them and copied each other or followed simple diagrams  you get in the pack.

There are a few key important  elements that you need to know in order to use them effectively and I am going to go through them here.

Firstly, what can and what can’t they do.

Well, they can’t break down scar tissue and knots (as some people may be led to believe) but they can reduce the tone in a muscle if used properly, which can help improve range of motion and muscle function.

In order to use them properly we need to follow the 40% rule (if it is even a rule). That is, DO NOT apply more than 40% of your body weight on the foam roller  when you are using it. By using to0 much force you will only cause excessive pain and your body will tense up to ‘protect’ the area……… Not what we want when trying to reduce tension in the muscle.

Secondly, get some movement in to the muscle and surrounding tissue  by putting some tension on the area with the foam roller and then moving the closest joint. This will will shorten and lengthen the muscle which is much more effective than just rolling up and down.

Thirdly, I’ve spoke about the importance of nasal breathing in other blogs (see here). Ensure you are breathing at a calm rate in and out through your nose. This will keep your nervous system in a rest and digest state which will help the muscle and tissues relax and reduce tension.

So try these out next time you are on the foam roller and turn the ‘dreaded’ foam roller into a calm roller that will not prevent you from getting injured, but will help reduce tone and help keep excessive tightness at bay.


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