Sunday, 5 December 2010

For F*cks sake.... Foam roll!

Hello all,

Its been about 3 weeks since my last blog, partly down me being busy with the opening of the gym, partly due to playing more golf and partly down to a new drinking habit that has formed over the past fortnight!

SHOCK, HORROR.... GASP! yes i do drink, i am human. Im just enjoying some free time before kicking back into a diet and exercise plan, keeping things steady and enjoying some 'off-menu' items (mainly cider). And its been good for the mind - but im ready to get back into my healthy ways again.

The corner-stone of every nutritious breakfast?

Anyway, onto todays blog. The attractive title "For f*ck's sake... Foam roll!" was an actual comment i made to a client who wasn't listening to my recommendations of rolling and stretching every day, we had a chuckle about it... but there is a trend amongst the poeple i train... they dont like foam rolling, full stop.

Why? Well, because it hurts. The people who complain the most about it are the ones that need it the most. Over the past 5 years i have noticed this trend is consistent in fitness. The people who train the least complain about themselves, the people who dont work hard complain that their personal trainers are no good... and so on.

Why does it hurt? Because they have excessively tight fascia around their muscle tissue (mainly quads, IT band). The first time i jumped on (during Premier PT training course) and did my IT bands, i seriously couln't believe it! I was in so much pain i asked for something to bite on! My instructor however knew what was coming because i had played football for 20 years and weight trained for 10 without really stretching much... i was an accident waiting to happen!

Should we give a f*ck? If you want to increase your performance, then YES, you really should. Also, tight muscles will restrict movement which will lead to bad technique. Ever seen a person whose squat looks just damn awful? It is not just bad luck, its very likely they have tight muscles which are restricting the natural pattern of the movement. Rolling and strecthing will help this.

The foam roller is a regular in our warm-ups at the gym

What is Foam rolling?

To keep things nice and simple, Foam rolling is a form of self-massage. Mike Boyle once said that rolling helps "remove density of the muscle to add length" I have yet to come across a more simple explaination. Knots and lesions in the muscle tissue will add density and thickness which are called trigger points. These trigger points will not stretch and therefore restrict the lengthening of the muscle.

What does this mean? If you are stretching with knots and lesions in your muscles you are effectively "pissing into the wind".

Stretching without foam rolling is not a good idea

Imagine an elastic band with knots all along it (An over-used thigh muscle would not look to disimilar to this elastic band).

What would happen if you pulled this tighter?

Obviously the knot would get tighter. This is a great analogy for the tightness in your thigh/IT band muscles and stretching. You must first "remove the density" (foam rolling) to add length (stretching).

Can't find a roller?

As they say on "Simples!". Just find a piece of draining pipe about 6" long (insert 6" jokes here) and cut to a half-metre length. You now have an advanced level roller which will (and should) rip you a new set of muscles in no time. I have named many rollers in my time, the latest edition at RCC gym is affectionately called "Bastard". Those who use it have a love/hate relationship with ole' B, they love the results it gives them but hate that it hurts like (well... a bastard) when you use it.

Bastard is one of the family here

Training recommendations

You really should use the foam roller pre-warm up for the best results. We have a set template for all warm ups and it looks something like this:

- 3-5 minutes steady cardio (bike, skipping, X trainer)
- 5 minutes+ Foam rolling (concentrate on worst areas, work all over the body)
- 10 minutes+ Mobility/Flexibility work to correct individual issues

Other instances to use a foam roller

1. We have a section of our assessment process called "the foam roll pain assessment". We use the foam roller to look at clients hot spots and then look at ways to reduce that tightness through focused rolling and smart corrective warm up exercises.

2. Recently i have been experimenting with foam rolling mid-session and as parts of extended sets for those individuals who need it most.

For example, my client EP has a really tight IT band left side so i have a tri-set in her session which is:

A1) Standing Cable chest press - 3 x 10
A2) Foam roll left quad/IT band (30 seconds+)
A3) Prone IT band stretch (30 seconds+)

Its unconventional, its not really that sexy... but EP is now working on her main problems during a strength session. Is it weird that i find that quite sexy?

I told you foam rolling could get sexy!

Final thoughts

Everyone who strength trains should foam roll. Everyone who is active should foam roll. If you are looking to increase flexibility, performance, technique and also relieve aches and pains of your muscles and joints... you should foam roll. Every trainer should use one on clients who have poor flexibility (TIP: In Bahrain, this is everybody) and they will see and feel great results instantly. I recently 'cured' a clients' chronic back pain through excessive rolling and stretching of his legs - if you asked him what was the main reason for his recovery (apart from his super-smart trainer) he would answer foam rolling.

See ya! That is all from me.

If you like this article, Please spread the word of my blog by sharing with your facebook friends below :)

I will be back sometime at the end of next week when my PT clients all go away for holidays and finally give me a break and some time to finish more writing, videos, etc.


  1. Great post, but I recommend upgrading your rollers. The white one you picture won't last long under heavy use. And your drain pipe "Bastard" is limited -- OK on muscle bellies but not so good around spinal processes and muscle attachments, where adhesions tend to accumulate. For more aggressive AND effective rolling, try this:

  2. thanks ron, unfortunately we are very limited here in bahrain and all orders have be international which makes them expensive. thanks for commenting, will check out website

  3. Love this one! So very true. Living proof it works. Will be using my red one while in the States. Keep up the good work!


Add your wise words below...