The foam roller is a very simple piece of equipment, but it can be hugely beneficial if you know how to use it! Lots of people THINK they know how to use a foam roller but based on what I see at the gym, not many people ACTUALLY know how to use it.
If you use a foam roller, even if you're 100% convinced you're using it correctly, please read this guide to foam roller use. Just in case...
The specific instructions will vary depending on the body part you're trying to release, but these basic rules apply to all muscles in all regions:
Start with the foam roller in the middle of the muscle belly, and roll length-ways along the muscle. This makes sure that you're releasing the greatest number of muscle fibres possible. It might look a little awkward for some muscles (e.g. rolling your gluteus medius means sitting at a 30-degree angle) but it is necessary.
Get your hands and feet off the floor. You only need one point of contact with the floor to push yourself forwards and backwards. For every point of contact greater than one, you decrease the force put through the roller by half.
Set the muscle parallel to the floor. The pressure should be evenly distributed across the whole muscle, so the muscle must be perpendicular to the floor. NOTE: that doesn't necessarily mean that your body is flat — rolling your triceps evenly, for example, will put your body at a 45-degree angle.
Roll the entire muscle, including tendon/s. Roll the full length of the muscle — from bone to bone. That will release every tender point and every knot in the muscle. If you only roll the belly, you can only release one third of the muscle.
Move slowly. Slow, even, deliberate movements are much better at releasing the muscle than fast, jerky movements. I know it hurts, but if you want it to work, you can't rush it.
Do at least 3 sets of 10 reps, twice per day. Foam rolling is something you need to do a lot if you want results. There is no point doing a few reps whenever it crosses y our mind until it gets sore. 3x10x2 should be your starting point, and INCREASE it if the muscles are still tight.
If you have any further questions on how to use a foam-roller, you can use the comments section of this post or send me an email directly.
Dr Mitch Clark