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Author: Richard Symister

Improve Your Foam Rolling R.O.I: “When should I foam roll and for how long?“

This is an excellent question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a concise answer, since there is currently no consensus on the optimal foam rolling program. 

However, based upon education, research, experience, client feedback, and performance, we use these foundation protocols when prescribing foam rolling programs (just please keep in mind that every prescription is different, tweaked to address each particular client’s deficits and needs).

  • There is strong evidence that suggests foam rolling for long periods can negatively affect performance. So, yes you can over-roll. Limit your foam rolling sessions to a total time of 30 – 90 seconds/body part. Perform foam rolling for short bouts or sets of 5 to 10 seconds, and then take short breaks in between. *These parameters are different for your “mobility days”. See below.
  •  Although foam rollers come in all types of densities, eventually you’ll want to shoot for a firmer (high density) type of foam roller. But it’s fine to break yourself in with a light density roller, and gradually build your tolerance. 
  • Foam roll directly before or after your light aerobic warm-ups. 
  • On your “mobility days“, when you are focusing on increasing your joint motion and tissue flexibility, combine short bouts of foam rolling with static or dynamic stretching. It’s also OK to gradually increase your total rolling time.
  • Monitor your response to foam rolling to confirm that it is not hindering your power and overall training output. Remember, you are using foam rolling as a tool to enhance your overall performance. Make necessary tweaks as needed.
  • Don’t roll out to the point where you increase your pain or inflammation. One primary foam rolling goal is to decrease muscle tension and pain, not increase it! Again, tweak your roll out time based upon your tolerance and performance.
  • Try not to follow the internet gurus, posting foam rolling videos, or hosting virtual foam rolling classes. There are specific techniques and progressions to foam rolling and not every movement is meant (or safe) for everyone. 
  • Get expert advice. One session with a quality Physical Therapist or strength coach can save you oodles of time and money setting you up with the perfect foam rolling program (duration, frequency, positioning, sets) to complement your training.

Check out the rest of my fact-filled blogs in the Foam Rolling 101 series below.

Heal. Move. ROLL. Evolve.