A Fitness Instructor Reveals When, Exactly, You’re Supposed to Be Foam Rolling

Photo: Getty Images/ alvarez
Ah, foam rolling. It's one of those things that you have some sense that you should be doing regularly as a part of your recovery routine, but when it comes to exactly when, the details aren't so widely discussed. "Foam rolling is beneficial at various times," says Corinne Croce, DPT, cofounder of NYC's Body Evolved. "Ideally, foam rolling is incorporated before exercising as a warmup to prep the body and prime the tissue for movement. However, foam rolling can be also used post-exercise to relieve tension built up during exercise immediately after or in the days after for delayed onset muscle soreness or tightness."

As far rolling it out on the reg goes, Croce notes that the "when" isn't all that important as long as you're doing it consistently. "Foam rolling may be used any time when feeling restricted or for the general health of soft tissues," she explains. "If performed correctly—one to two minutes max per area, with movement vs. steady pressure and with rhythmic breathing—foam rolling may be used daily."

Your best bet is to foam roll the muscle group that you plan to focus on before you work it out as a warmup, or after the fact as a means of recovery. So take some time on leg day to treat your legs to a little TLC either before or after you suffer through your squats... but that's not all. "Keep in mind that you need to warm up for more than just the obvious areas when exercising. For example, if you're doing your legs, your back muscles require a warmup as well—a full-body approach is always wise," says Croce, who says that this advice may differ slightly for competitive athletes.

One other thing to note? Foam rolling isn't supposed to be as painful as most people think. To ensure you're not doing more harm than good, steer clear of any muscles that are strained, inflamed, or irritated beyond standard muscle soreness. "You should not foam roll a specific area if you cannot breathe through your rolling. You may need to get a softer foam roller for certain areas," says Croce. "More is not better. If you're unsure what's normal, a professional assessment with personal recommendations will always be beneficial."

Bottom line: Hop on the roller regularly (and responsibly) and you'll be on a roll with your recovery and well-prepped to tackle whatever fitness goals lie ahead.

Whenever you do decide to foam roll, here's the right way to do it. And to bring your muscle massages to the next level, try the new, improved, (almost silent!) Theragun

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