Safety / Injuries
9 Foam Rolling Secret Benefits Everyone Should Know
9 Foam Rolling Secrets Benefits Every Trainer Should Know
Foam rolling and other types of self-myofascial release are a common part of any trainer’s toolbox. It’s grown in popularity, so trainers and clients alike have some level of familiarity. But, there’s some key secrets the best trainers know when using SMR in client programs. These expert trainers know the 9 secrets about foam rolling. For example, did you know working on the IT band might not be the answer you’re looking for? Or how about the idea that it prevents soreness? Use these professional tips when incorporating foam rolling as part of any workout program.
9 Trainer Secrets on Foam Rolling
Foam rolling has benefits and simulates a massage, but are you using it the way the experts are? Check out these secrets to see if you’re SMR recommendations are on point.
1. Foam rolling before a workout has greater benefits than after
For many reasons, clients and trainers might think foam rolling after a workout is the best bet. It might feel good, but clients can gain more from having the best range of motion before a workout instead of after. The secret is, the increased range of motion helps make the workout more effective and reduce the risk of injury.1 Using it after the workout is an added bonus in the experts’ opinion but the real benefit is before the hard work begins.
2. Foam rolling doesn’t prevent soreness the next day
It’s common to think if your clients just foam roll after the workout, they won’t be as sore. Instead, the research says it can reduce the amount of soreness time and maybe even speed up recovery.2 But the experts know exercise causes muscle damage and there’s no magic cure to avoid the soreness linked with a tough workout.
3. A 30 – 45 second hold on tender areas is the way to make a difference
Clients, and sometimes trainers, have clients roll back and forth at moderate pace. Like some of the other secrets, this might feel good but doesn’t add the overall value of SMR. When clients hold a tender area for at least 30 seconds, they get what they’re looking for- the hyperactive muscle to calm down. But, it takes this amount of time in order to signal the brain to relax the muscle, so the secret is to find the tender area and keep applying pressure for the entire 30 seconds.
4. Focus on areas that cause the most trouble
One of the secrets in using foam rolling is all about efficiency and effectiveness. SMR takes time, so the best trainers realize this and only focus on the most problematic muscles. This doesn’t mean the most painful muscles. Instead, it means those that are preventing good range of motion and will be needed during a workout. For example, a client might have sore lats and want to roll them. But, it’s a lower body day and you know they have tight calves and hip flexors. In this case, you would make sure they spend their time wisely, and get their joints moving in the best way possible.
5. Rolling the IT band is ineffective
The IT band is connective tissue- incredibly thick and resistant connective tissue. This means, foam rolling it will do little more than cause discomfort in the area. The goal of SMR is to increase range of motion and get clients to move better, so time is better spent on pliable tissue- muscle. Expert trainers realize this and spend their time having clients roll their TFL (tensor fascia latae)- where the IT band connects. Sometimes clients think the discomfort in rolling the IT band means it’s working. But the experts realize pain is usually the symptom and opt for a more useful approach.
6. Good form is just as important as any other exercise
It’s easy to think foam rolling is time to relax. Meaning, clients and trainers tend to pay less attention to form when it’s more about the internal feeling they’re looking for when rolling. Perfect form when doing SMR techniques is important so you don’t inadvertently cause more problems. Any form of exercise, when performed incorrectly can make muscle imbalances worse, so foam rolling is no different. Watch for clients dropping their head or letting it fall forward. Also pay attention to their lower back, making sure it doesn’t arch. Finally check out if their shoulders raise up. With the discomfort that comes with SMR, it’s easy for all these things to happen, so the best trainers keep a watchful eye on perfect SMR form.
7. Make sure clients don’t tense up on the tender areas
When you or your client find a tender area, we know it’s uncomfortable. Subconsciously, clients will tense up in other areas to relieve themselves from the discomfort. This can cause bad form and also reduce the benefits linked to foam rolling. The best trainers know If the pain is too much, it’s better to use a less dense device or regress the intensity than it is to tense up.
8. Everyone should be foam rolling
Unless your client has a condition where foam rolling is cautioned (hypertension, osteoporosis, skin condition, etc.), SMR is perfect for most client goals. Even a client looking for hypertrophy will benefit from SMR at the beginning of their workout. Remember, better range of motion means better ability to recruit more muscle fibers and maximize each exercise. This means performance, fitness, weight loss, LBM gain, and endurance training can all benefit from SMR techniques.3
9. Get client buy-in for foam rolling
Let’s face it, foam rolling takes time. And, as a highly paid fitness professional, clients might not want to spend that time sitting on a roller. One of the best trainer secrets is to get clients to understand how foam rolling will help them get to their goals fast. Then, they spend time teaching the basics so the client knows how to do it on their own before the session time starts.
More on Foam Rolling
Love foam rolling and SMR so much you want more? SMR should be part of a larger strategy on making the body move the best way possible, also known as corrective exercise. Check out more on how foam rolling fits into the total program for a client in this article.4 Or, take the next step and become a specialist in corrective exercise through this course.5
1. Sullivan, K. M., Silvey, D. B. J., Button, D., & Behm, D. G. (2013). Roller-massage application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion without performance impairments. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 8 (3), 228 - 236.
2. MacDonald, G. Z., Button, D. C., Drinkwater, E. J., & Behm, D. G. (2013). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44 (1), 154 - 165.
2. MacDonald, G. Z., Penney, M., Mullaley, M., Cuconato, A., Drake, C., Behm, D. G. & Button, D. C. (2012). An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27, 812 - 821.
3. ISSA Corrective Exercise- Are you doing it right?
4. ISSA Corrective Exercise Specialist
Certified Personal Trainer
The Certified Fitness Trainer program is designed to equip graduates with the practical day-to-day skills necessary, as well as the theoretical knowledge needed to excel as a personal trainer serving the general public. Along with the necessary exercise science foundation, the distance education program covers client assessment, program design, basic nutrition, and sports medicine along with business and marketing skills.