Do’s and Don’ts of Foam Rolling

A guide

Foam rolling before a working out can help your muscles feel looser, allowing you to achieve better positions to build strength, and generally just feel better. We don’t know exactly why it happens, and it’s definitely not a cure-all, but it can definitely help. If you feel better, you train better.

A good test for any type of soft tissue work like foam rolling is to perform the technique on one side, then test it. Does it feel different? A successful foam rolling technique should leave the muscle feeling softer and lighter. It’s hard to describe, but if you’ve felt it before, you know the feeling.


  • Sit down and roll on your hamstrings first. It isn’t “bad,” but it’s really not very effective. There are better uses of your time.
  • Flail around or move too fast.
  • Stare at your phone while you’re rolling. Just like anything, you’ll get more out of what you’re doing if you’re not distracted.


  • Have 2-4 targeted areas you want to work on. These can be areas you know get tight, or just help you feel better.
  • Move “Sticker Slow” – the goal of foam rolling is to get your muscles to soften. To do this, you need to move slowly. Imagine the magical pace you peel a sticker off a book – pull too fast and the sticker tears.
  • Focus on what you’re doing. How does it feel? Does it feel like you’re rolling over steel cables? Can you feel a difference from side to side? Try to slowly roll over the “cables,” staying on top of them, slowly moving back and forth until they soften.

Here are three areas an athlete can roll to prep for a full body strength session, cardio session, or a day on the mountain

  1. Thoracic Spine: Get a foam roller and place it perpendicular along your mid-back. The goal is to roll your back from the bottom of your rib cage to the base of your neck. Keeping your hips on the ground, lace your fingers behind your neck to support your neck and head. Try to touch your elbows together and reach your elbows back, pointing them high to the ceiling. Move up or down on the roller, finding the tight spots, and repeat the process.
  2. Shoulder Cuff: Place the foam roller perpendicular and roll on your side, rolling the back side of your armpit, slowly rolling from the base of your arm and down into your torso. Roll up and down and forward and backward. Try rotating your arm in and out to find different tender spots.
  3. Hip Cuff: Sit on the foam roller with your thigh parallel to the roller. Find your “sit bone” (to find this bone, sit all the way upright and move around until you find it). If you’re on your right side, your left foot will be flat on the ground, and your right hand will be straight out to the side. The goal will be to use your left foot and right hand to control the movement on the roller. Try crossing your legs to find different spots.

An effective foam rolling session to begin a training session or used prior to warming up for a game doesn’t need to be very long. In fact, if you’re rolling for more than 5 minutes, you probably can shorten your routine. Focus on just a few areas, move slowly, and pay attention to how things feel, how they should feel, and softening the muscles up.