Previ Fitness: What Is Foam Rolling?


Foam rolling has become commonplace among professional athletes and fitness newbies alike. You can now go into almost any gym and see people using a foam roller as part of their routine. So what exactly is it and why is it beneficial?

Foam rolling is one of the modalities used to perform self myofascial release (SMR)– a stretching technique.

SMR targets the nerves and connective tissue beneath the skin that attach, stabilize and separate muscles in the body, which can be negatively influenced by poor posture, repetitive motions, or dysfunctional movements (1). These stressful actions are recognized by the body as an injury, causing it to initiate a repair process (1). This cycle leads to inflammation, muscle spasm, and the development of soft tissue adhesions that can reduce the elasticity of the soft tissues and eventually lead to muscle imbalances and a permanent change in the soft tissue structure. All of this to say that many of our day-to-day activities can eventually lead to reduced flexibility and the potential for injury.

Foam rolling focuses on alleviating these adhesions (also known as “trigger points” or “knots”) to restore optimal muscle motion and function (1, 5). The basics behind utilizing foam rolling is to pick the body part you feel tension in, roll that body part, and when you feel a “knot”,  hold the pressure on that spot for 30 seconds to 2 minutes until a release is felt.

One of the great things about foam rolling is that it is relatively inexpensive and convenient since it can be done at home, the gym, or even your office. Do be aware there are contraindications to practicing foam rolling altogether or avoiding certain areas such as a recent injury site, any joints or bony prominences, or if you have circulatory problems or chronic pain conditions. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns about utilizing foam rolling.

So where to begin? Our follow-up post will review a few techniques to help you get started. And if you’re interested in more specific suggestions, we encourage you to meet with one of our PreviMedica exercise specialists to receive a personalized stretching and exercise plan. Contact us at 855-773-8463 or by email at Happy foam rolling!


  1. Clark MA, Lucett SL. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training, Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2011.
  2. Clark MA, Lucett SL. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th ed. Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2012.
  3. Edgerton VR, Wolf S, Roy RR. Theoretical basis for patterning EMG amplitudes to assess muscle dysfunction. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28(6):744-751.
  4. Janda V. Muscle weakness and inhibition in back pain syndromes. In: Grieve GP (ed). Modern Manual Therpay of the Vertebral Column. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1986.
  5. Reid DA, McNair PJ. Passive force, angle and stiffness changes after stretching of hamstring muscles. Med Sci Sports Exer 2004; 36(11):1944-48.

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