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Why a Foam Roller Works

author image Jami Kastner
Based in Wisconsin farm country, Jami Kastner has been writing professionally since 2009 and has had many articles published online. Kastner uses her experience as a former teacher, coach and fitness instructor as a starting point for her writing. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education from Trinity International University.
Why a Foam Roller Works
A physical therapist massaging a client's ankle on a foam roller. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images

A foam roller is a cylinder of foam that resembles a noodle used in the pool for floatation. Foam rollers come in a variety of lengths, widths and densities. While a smaller foam roller can be helpful when rolling one leg at a time, you do not need to purchase multiple sizes. Simply choose a roller about 2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. A firm roller should be fine for most uses; however, if your muscles are extremely tight you may want to consider an extra firm roller instead.

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Trigger Points

Trigger points are sore spots that form within muscles or tendons. They can be a result of injury, training too hard or poor posture. A trigger point will be sore to the touch and may even feel like a knot in your muscle. Trigger points cannot be relieved by stretching. In fact stretching can be hindered by trigger points because they can prevent the muscle from elongating to its full length. Releasing tension from your trigger points will not only relieve the soreness but will allow your muscles to stretch more effectively as well.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is a way of massaging away the tension in your trigger points without the help of a masseuse. Foam rolling is cheaper and more convenient than getting a professional massage, and you can do it in the convenience of your own home. You use a foam roller by lying on top of it, placing the muscle you wish to roll directly over the foam roller. You then roll your muscle over the foam roller, stopping anytime you feel a trigger point. Roll over and over the muscle until tension has been release from all trigger points.


All foam rolling sessions should be followed with static stretching of the rolled muscle groups. Since you have rolled all of the tension from the trigger points, your muscles should stretch further and more completely after being rolled. Make sure that you stretch each muscle that you rolled and that stretching always takes place after rolling. Use a static stretch, a stretch that is held, and hold each stretch for 30 - 60 seconds. Repeat each stretch two to three times.


Foam rolling can benefit your hamstrings. Sit on top of your foam roller with your left leg crossed over your right. You will be rolling your right hamstring. Place your hands on the ground behind you, and keep your right heel on the ground. Start with the roller directly under your rear end. Roll all the way down to just above the back of your knee. Remember to concentrate on any trigger points in your hamstring. When all of the tension has been rolled out of your right hamstring, stretch it. Sit flat on the ground with your right leg extended in front of you. Make sure your knee and foot point up toward the ceiling as you lean forward aiming your nose for your knee. Repeat on the left side.

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