Understanding The Foam Roller

Now lets clear one thing up before we get started, when I’m referring to the foam roller I am referring to all soft tissue implements, be it a hockey ball, lacrosse ball or the foam, roller. I plan to help you understand how and why we use them and how to get the most out of them to benefit your training.


So to start with I am going to dispel a little myth I hear all too often.


The foam roller breaks down scar tissue and lesions.


No it doesn’t! Do you know how hard it is to break down scar tissue? It’s pretty damn tough.


The fact is you aren’t changing the state of the muscle tissue at all. What you are doing is manipulating the central nervous system (CNS) into decreasing neural drive to the muscle. This causes a reduction in tone in the muscle, which, in turn, can help improve movement.


So why is this important?


Well this is important because now we know what we are actually doing we can be more precise in our application and dose.


Now that we know that we are really manipulating the CNS it makes it pretty pointless to spend ages rolling out the IT band for example. Actually, in my opinion, spending too long on there may actually have a negative effect, as I’m not sure we want to spend too long disrupting the nervous system. Instead we should use the roller and like for what they really are, tools. Tools to get a specific response, decreasing neural drive to over active muscles while we use activation exercises to switch on under active muscles in an aim to assist improved movement.


Let's Put it into practice


I’m a big fan of the test and re-test protocol that Kelly Starrett talks about a lot, especially in the warm up. 


Perform a movement, improve a movement and strengthen a movement. 


Here's how it might look


Overhead squats x10


Movement feel a little off?


Foam roll the IT Band x 30s each side

Mobility exercise

Glute activation exercise x10-20


Overhead squat again….


Feel better??


If not, repeat. If so then load the squat.




When it comes to your warm up you don’t have do everything for sake of it. Be precise. 

Improve movement, train hard and get stronger.