Foam Rolling 101: Benefits, How-To, And More

You know the feeling you get when you come across a set of stairs the day after a really awesome leg workout?

Trying to get your stiff, sore legs to climb is brutal, to say the least.

You’re already doing the straight legged Frankenstein shuffle. A set of stairs is the last thing you need right now.

Besides being sore, you probably also notice decreased flexibility and less power during your next gym session.

What you’re experiencing is caused by delayed onset muscle soreness. Yes, it actually has a scientific name, and it’s a sure sign that you worked those muscles good!

There are several factors at play causing the soreness. But there’s one little thing you can do to make a huge difference in alleviating it.

You may have heard of foam rolling, and you’ve probably seen people doing it at the gym. You might have wondered what they were up to. I’m here to answer all your questions.

Consider this your cue to bring foam rolling into your life.

What Is Foam Rolling?

The fancy term is self-myofascial release (but we’ll stick with foam rolling), and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s rolling your sore muscles back and forth over a foam cylinder.

All the muscles in your body are wrapped in an ultra-thin connective tissue covering called fascia.

Imagine fascia sort of like your body’s own self-made saran wrap. It keeps your muscles held in place and decreases friction between them when you move.

After an intense training session, the fascia can become inflamed or stiff, causing soreness and limiting your range of motion.

This can affect your next gym session big time. You’ll no doubt feel stiff, sore, and you may even want to skip your workout altogether.

That’s where foam rolling comes in.

It won’t solve all life’s problems, but foam rolling is seriously an amazing thing. Spending just a few minutes every day with your roller will significantly improve your recovery from tough workouts.

Your foam roller can attack soreness, increase range of motion, decrease stiffness, and more!

For a full list of benefits, read on.

Benefits Of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling actually has quite a bit of data behind it which shows a handful of benefits.  The benefits of foam rolling can affect your post-workout recovery in some major ways!

#1 Decreased Soreness

Foam rolling decreases soreness following an intense workout session.

That uncomfortable nagging soreness that follows you around after a bigtime workout can be minimized, making everything you do a little bit more enjoyable.

Whether your day includes wrangling kids, working, or anything else physical, decreased soreness is a huge positive.

#2 Improved training performance the day AFTER training

If you’re like me, you probably struggle a bit in the gym the day after a tough workout.

Foam rolling after you train has been shown to improve training performance the day after a tough workout.

#3 When done BEFORE training, performance improves

Even if you aren’t suffering from nagging soreness, foam rolling before you train can lead to better performance during your upcoming workout.

And everyone can benefit from better workouts, right?!

#4 It’s enjoyable

You will seriously start to look forward to it.

Like a self-massage, foam rolling can be a bit uncomfortable when you’re trying to knock out a stubborn knot. But most of the time it feels great and is even relaxing.

#5 Increased range of motion

coach kristi strething

Foam rolling, in addition to stretching, can lead to greater increases in range of motion than stretching alone.

That means you’ll have more flexibility and better movement, which positively impacts pretty much all the activities of your daily life.

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How to Use A Foam Roller

You can use your foam roller either before OR after your workout. It’s flexible like that (no pun intended ?)!

If you have time, you can even use your foam roller both before AND after your workout for even more benefits.

Before your workout

You can use your foam roller during your pre-workout warm-up routine.

This can increase your performance during exercise by increasing blood flow, lengthening your muscle, and working out any knots that might be there.

After your workout

You can use your foam roller right after you workout.

This can help speed up recovery and decrease soreness. This will not only make you feel better today but can also promote a better workout tomorrow!

How Long Should You Foam Roll

It doesn’t take much time at all, as research shows that 2 sets of 1 minute per area is sufficient.

Just think, in roughly the time it takes to read this blog you could have finished a killer foam rolling session!

If you have more time, other studies suggest that the benefits might be even greater with a longer roll. So it’s really up to you, and how long you feel like rolling for.

Foam Rolling Tips

Wondering how to foam roll effectively?

Using your foam roller correctly may be a bit more complex than it initially seems to be. But with a little practice, you’ll quickly become a pro!

There are a few things to remember when you’re rolling out a muscle.

-Roll the muscle “with the grain”

Muscle fibers are oriented in one direction, like the grain on wood, and for best results, you should go with the grain. For almost all muscles you’ll be rolling, this will be lengthwise (from head to toe). The main exceptions will be glutes and the muscles in your upper back and shoulders, which will be side-to-side.


Place yourself on the ground with your foam roller placed underneath the muscle you want to roll out. Make adjustments to your position so that as much weight is placed on the roller as is comfortable.

-Try to relax the muscle being rolled as much as you can.


Depending on the muscle being rolled, use either your hands or feet to push yourself along the ground in the direction that will allow your body to glide over the roller. When you’ve gone as far as you can in one direction, pull yourself back the way you came. Allow the roller to slowly roll back and forth beneath the muscle or area you’re trying to target.

Before long you’ll be a foam rolling master!

how to choose the right Foam Roller

A foam roller is a beautifully simple piece of equipment. But you might be surprised to find that there are actually many options out there.

Consider the following when selecting the right foam roller:


You don’t really think about how inconvenient a long roller can be until you actually have one.

Some rollers approach 4 feet in length which can make them tough to store and awkward to carry around. Your lower back, legs, hips and other commonly rolled areas aren’t very wide, and definitely don’t need a foam roller that large.

Shoot for a foam roller shorter than 3 feet.


All foam rollers are cylindrical, and most are perfectly smooth all the way around, which is totally fine.

But some are accented with projections that act almost like the tread on a tire. They allow the roller to dig in a little more (in a good way), and can pinpoint small trouble areas that you would otherwise need a tennis ball to effectively work on.

The tread basically makes for a better and more effective experience.

Quality Material

Though they may look the same, not all foam rollers are created equal when it comes to quality.

The material used in your foam roller will affect durability and the quality of your rolling experience.

A low-quality material may begin to break apart after only a few rolls.

Plus, if your foam roller is made of a low-quality material, it won’t be firm enough to give you a good roll!

This is why it’s so important to select a foam roller made of high-quality materials.


Most foam rollers floating around gyms and studios are monotone black or grey. Boring!

You may have to do just a bit of searching, but you can find them in fun colors!

Style may not be your top priority when selecting a foam roller. But why not get something fashionable if it’s available?

I say go for something a little more exciting to look at.

Idealfit Foam Roller

Made from the highest quality foam and supported with a plastic tube on the inside, IdealFit’s foam roller is comfortable and durable.

It also measures shorter than 2 feet, so it’s super easy to carry around and convenient to store!

Half the roller is smooth for rolling larger muscles, and half is treaded with projections for pinpointing knots, or if you’re just ready for a more intense roll.

It also delivers on style, coming in Ideal pink!

So what are you waiting for? Get your foam roller today!

Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer & Nutritionist

Lindsey Mathews is the Head Trainer and Nutritionist at IdealFit. She is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, C-ISSN certified sports nutritionist, Pn. 1 certified nutrition coach, and a nationally qualified NPC bikini competitor. Before joining IdealFit, she ran the largest boot camp program in Utah County.

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