I think I got used to seeing clients bringing their own yoga mats as they travel. But lately, I’ve also seen people coming to the gym with their own foam rollers. This makes me wonder, should I foam roll every day?
You can, and you should foam roll every day because foam rolling benefits go beyond releasing trigger points. The daily routine of self-myofascial work can help you facilitate workout adaptations, reduce your stress, improve posture, and make you sleep better.
In this article, I will explain to you the benefits of foam rolling every day, why you need it, and what happens if you don’t do it.
What Happens If You Foam Roll Every Day?
When you foam roll every day you can significantly improve your range of motion and reduce the tissue restriction. A daily myofascial release is a powerful tool to facilitate muscular adaptations and restore the length-tension relationship in your muscles and joints.
But to see the best results, you want to do it every day. Soft tissues are dynamic and reactive to many stimuli during the day. So whatever you do it will have an impact on the muscles.
For example, you may have:
- bad night’s sleep
- long day at work
- sit all day at the desk
- challenging workout
- slight dehydration
All those changes will affect the suppleness and the quality of your tissues. And if you spend only a few minutes once a week, it’s not gonna cut it.
I’ve done an interview with an Octavian Antalute, a licensed massage therapist from Spacoach.ro, and wanted to pick up his brain about foam rolling every day.
I always recommend foam roller, especially for the iliotibial muscle.
This area of the body is always tight and goes hand in hand with the IT band. It acts as a shock absorber.
That’s why it builds up a lot of stiffness and tightness.
Octavian also mentioned that people very rarely address this area of the body. That’s why it feels tight, even sensitive.
I explain to my clients that the treatment is the big step forward, especially if they never work on this before.
However, we can only improve it so much.
And unless they don’t carry on to continue addressing this stiffness with a foam roller, the problem may come back.
He says that it’s not unusual to have guests screaming, shouting, and cursing at him while he works on their muscle tension.
Either you cry or laugh about it.
I’ve asked Octavian about the difference in people tissue quality, and if he can tell if someone is doing foam rolling regularly.
You can tell straight away.
People who don’t use any form of massage or foam rolling have muscle tightness and stiffness.
It can take even up to 10-15 minutes of manual work and some basic myofascial release to finally lose it up.
However, for people who use a foam roller or get a massage regularly, this process is almost immediate.
Apart from regular stiffness of the body, upper back, and lower back, when you go close to the muscle insertions and you feel there is no stiffness where the muscle inserts, for me that’s a sign that this person is doing something.
Fibers are much gentler and softer. I don’t have to spend so much time breaking up this tension.
He said that by doing foam rolling you get the results faster.
Octavian is right.
What Happens If You Don’t Foam Roll?
Foam rolling every day allows you to desensitize restricted tissues and restore your range of motion. If you don’t spend time on the foam roller, or you won’t do any mobility work, those tissue restrictions remain unchanged and can lead to movement inefficiency.
If you’re busy working hard and spending most of your day in inefficient positions (e.g. sitting) chances are you’re not paying attention to your form or the way you move during the day. It doesn’t mean you cannot be strong.
You may be the fastest or the strongest guy or gal in your gym, you may outrun and outperform everyone around you.
But if the majority of your day you spend in the compromised positions, your body will compensate. It’s called pattern adaptation. It’s basically our body’s ability to buffer dysfunction to continue doing what we were doing.
And the longer you’re exposed to those mechanically restricted positions, your body will mimic the same patterns during your workouts or during any movement. For example.
- Sitting all day deactivates the glues muscles that stabilize your spine, shortens the hip flexors, and leads to fatigue in the process of finding stability.
- From that fatigue, by default, we gonna adapt to the most available, mechanically inefficient “stable position” aka slouching.
- Slouch position rounds the upper back and decreases breathing capacity and impairs the diaphragm function.
That’s how our body finds its way and compensates. The problem is that if we spend hours in the same, compromised position, the brain quickly recognizes this as a pattern.
This pattern becomes reinforced into a habit. And if this habit carries on for months, even years, we not only start to move in the same way. But we also forget how does it feel to have a full mechanical capacity and optimal range of motion.
Because it’s been so long. If you’ve ever spent some time with people who:
- have knee pain for the last ten years or more
- can’t touch their toes or tie up their shoes without help
- can’t put the bra on or
They literally forget how does it feel to be able to do those things.
You don’t know how tight you’re until you mobilize every day. That’s why foam rolling every day helps you reclaim that proper range of motion and restore full mechanical capacity.
I’ve discovered foam rolling after my first deep tissue massage. My IT band was so stiff that 2 people had to hold me while I was jerking and screaming. That’s how bad it was.
However, after the treatment, immediately I’ve noticed something was different. My legs felt light, I could stand up straighter and I had no problem with keeping my knee-high above my hip line as before.
I was hooked!
Benefits Of Foam Rolling Every Day
Apart from reducing stiffness and muscle tension, the benefits of foam rolling every day include a better parasympathetic response in the body, which releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin or serotonin. Those hormones lower your stress and improve your sleep.
This means you can use a foam roller as a tool to help you down-regulate. It’s easy to start your day with an intensive workout, drink several coffees a day and ride high on cortisol. But fight or flight isn’t the life-long thingy.
And you can only run for so long from the lion before you have to stop and rest. Otherwise, you burn out. So what is your current model to switch off at the end of the day?
Not many people have one.
Foam Rolling For Stress Release
Foam rolling does release stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system that inhibits the fight or flight response. This process acts as a break or a cooldown by lowering the heart rate, increasing intestine motility, and relaxing the body by reducing the epinephrine levels.
You can use a foam roller in the evening as a part of your down-regulating ritual.
- Spend 10-15 minutes in total
- Roll on the muscles that you feel need more love
- Use a foam roller for larger muscle groups (quads, IT, hip flexors, calves)
- Use a massage ball or a peanut ball for the muscles that are hidden in those hard-to-get corners.
It will work as the switch for all the feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like oxytocin and endorphins (source). You will love it.
To learn more about what exactly happens in the body during the foam rolling, check out my related article.
Related article: Why Does Foam Rolling Feels So Good
Foam Rolling Makes You Sleep Better
Foam rolling can help you sleep better because it does relax the body and eliminates muscle tension. Activation of the parasympathetic response triggers the tryptophan to manufacture serotonin and it helps you to fall asleep easier.
Especially if you have troubles with sleeping, you can combine foam rolling with stretching, yoga assanas or even aromatherapy oils.
- Start by simple mobility routine to warm-up the body
- Implement simple yoga routine like sun salutation where you just move from upward facing dog to downward facing dog.
- Try to capture where you feel the most tension.
- After sun salutation, spend some time stretching with holding each stretch for 15-10 seconds
After you’ve done the stretches and you feel your body is getting more responsive, now is the time to bring the foam roller.
- Start from the muscles you feel need most attention
- Spend 1-2 minutes per muscle
- Breathe comfortably
- If you find the trigger point, stay on that spot until you feel it getting looser
- Use foam roller as a diagnostic tool.
By the diagnostic tool I mean you can look for the spots where is the biggest tension. The muscle shouldn’t feel painful to compress. When you roll on your calves or quads, it should feel almost like a relaxing experience.
But once you roll on the spot and it feels painful, makes you all tighten up and hold your breath, that means you just found a sensitive area, and your job is to stay there until you make the change.
Related article: Foam Rolling: Why it hurts & How to make it less painful
Foam Rolling for Muscle Perfusion
Muscle perfusion is just a fancy name for saying blood circulation. As with any soft tissue work (massage, foam rolling), it works by applying mechanical pressure on the muscle, therefore, it enhances the blood flow into the area that you target.
Application of the cycles of pressure directly on the muscles, followed by release time, increases the arteriolar pressure, as well as muscle temperature (source).
In other words, foam rolling is a great way to improve general circulation, improve skin elasticity and overall well-being.
This means you could use foam rolling if you have problems with:
- dry skin
- cold skin
- poor circulation
If you do foam rolling once a week, you will feel good, but it’s likely not enough to make significant progress. Instead, if you can find 10 minutes somewhere during the day, the results will get better and faster.
Foam Rolling Save You Money
Foam rolling can save you money because with the regular rolling routine you address the movement-related errors, fix biomechanical restrictions, and keep you pain-free. This means you won’t need to spend several hundred bucks each time when you have a stiff quad.
Foam rolling allows you for self-maintenance anytime when you feel like you have some stiffness. So you don’t have to rely on other professionals to fix this problem for you.
If we gonna go one step further, even if you have a problem with your knees, hips, or lower back, chances are that simple mobility drills done on the regular basis will be enough to fix the problem.
Of course, this will go beyond the simple 10-minute routine. For best results you should probably combine:
- Foam rolling
- PNF techniques
- Strength training
I’ve prepared a comprehensive foam rolling program specifically designed to work on knee pain.
Related article: Foam Rolling For Knee Pain
Foam Rolling Improves Your Performance
In the last 5 years, there’s been a lot of new research on foam rolling and self-myofascial release techniques and their relation not only with muscle stiffness, or recovery but also performance.
This means regular foam rolling can make you:
- Run faster
- Jump higher
- Lift heavier
Up to now, most research has looked at systematic reviews. This means they looked at people who used a foam rollers and noticed better performance as one of the many other benefits.
This means that better performance can really be just the effect of better recovery or lessen muscle pain. However, now a lot of studies are designed to give instant feedback.
They show that immediate use of foam rollers either before or after a workout is directly correlated with improvements in strength, power, or speed (source).
Foam Rolling Make You Skinnier
This doesn’t mean you gonna burn more calories by doing foam roller stretches. Not at all.
But I invite you to take a step back and look wider at how do our behaviors work around food. We are all human beings, we are not spreadsheets. And our typical response to stress is by eating food.
So when you’re dieting, any extra stress will add to your threshold. In fact, calorie deficit in itself leads to stress.
Foam rolling does make you skinnier because it lowers your stress and cortisol levels. Lowering stress while being in the calorie deficit can help you reduce the food cravings, lowers the appetite, and prevents any unwanted emotional eating behaviors.
This means you don’t have to fight all day long with your iron willpower. Lowering stress will simply put the food cravings out of your radar.
Related article: How to Stop Worrying About Calories
How Many Times A Day Should You Foam Roll?
In general, you can foam roll 1-2 times a day, depending on what you using the foam roller for. People who want to improve their range of motion can spend 10-15 minutes twice a day, where for people who just want to feel better, a single 10-minute session in the evening is enough.
So it will really depend on your goal. Here I have a breakdown of my recommendations based on your goals:
|Goal||How many times a day|
|Flexibility||On the training days twice a day (after a workout and in the evening)|
On the off days once a day (evening)
|Stiffness||Once a day 10-15 minutes targetting muscles with the most tension|
|Stress||Every day in the evening or whenever you feel like you have to|
|Sleep||Every day in the evening 10-15 minutes targeting large muscle groups|
|Performance||Every day after a workout and short session to downregulate at night before bed.|
How Long Should Spend On A Foam Roller?
On average, you should spend around 10-15 minutes per session. For the muscles that you feel no restriction, spend around 20-30 seconds and move on. For the areas that you feel more sensitive, stay for 1-2 minutes or until you make the change.
To learn more about how long should you foam roll for I’ve written an article where I explain in-depth about how long should you do it
Related article: How Long Should You Foam Roll For
Foam rolling every day comes with a laundry list of benefits. And if done properly, it can be your new best friend. No wonder why I see more and more people traveling with their foam rollers.
The beginning can feel hard and foreign. However, the more time you spend talking to your tissues, you will quickly get the results that go above and beyond the range of motion.