How to use foam rollers at Pete Fraser Fitness

Rollers – an athlete`s secret weapon

Rollers for runners

Rollers – any benefit to a runner?   Yes, we think so!

Foam rollers are useful to improve muscle flexibility and promote muscle “maintenance”. At Pete Fraser Fitness we use them regularly for client prehabilitation (preventative exercise) to help reduce the possibility of injury from tight muscles. Read more to find out how…..

What do they do?

Muscles have a connective tissue sheath surrounding them called facia. The facia can link incorrectly to the underlying muscle causing adhesions and scar tissue. Rolling the muscle can alleviate the adhesions and mobilize the scar tissue helping to maintain efficient muscular contraction and performance.

“rollers can help maintain efficient muscular contraction and performance”

Are all rollers created equally?

No! With experience at Pete Fraser Fitness we have found the harder type (grid style neoprene foam over a PVC core – available from most good running/sports shops) to be more effective (and unfortunately painful) at releasing tight fascia than the soft foam only rollers which lose their rigidity. Research seems to support this

How often should they be used?

For between 2 and 5 minutes duration with 30 sec rest periods between minutes, roll slowly over the length of the target muscle but be careful not to roll over bone or the area of tendon just before the muscle reaches the bone.

Be careful not to overdo it as too much rolling could potentially cause its own trauma. 3 times per week would suffice or a quick roll every other day would be appropriate.

Which muscles are they best used on?

At Pete Fraser Fitness we’ve found rollers are effective as part of our mobilisation and prehabilitation schedule for clients. We use them specifically on lower limb musculature, namely:

  • Iliotibial band (side-upper leg)
  • Gastrocnemius/ soleus complex (calf)
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Piriformis (hip rotator)

These are all areas which commonly become tight and “stressed” in athletes, especially runners. Using rollers in these areas can become part of an effective muscle “maintenance” self-management plan to prevent the risk of micro-trauma and improve flexibility.

How do I use rollers?

It is worth pointing out that any participant in sport and fitness, especially runners, need to maintain a balance between resilience (muscular tightness) and flexibility. Optimal range of motion around a joint is desirable this comes through flexibility, however a level of tightness or resilience in the muscles is also desirable. For example, when loads are transferred from ground reaction forces into the soft tissue structures of the body (ligaments, tendons and muscles), a level of shock absorbency and momentum continuum is required to maintain efficient movement, i.e. running fast efficiently. The balance between muscular tightness and flexibility is therefore something an athlete should keep in mind – don’t overdo the flexibility with either rolling or stretching.

“The balance between muscular tightness and flexibility is something an athlete should keep in mind – don’t overdo the flexibility with either rolling or stretching”

  • Below is the rolling action to release a tight Iliotibial band (I’m not smiling – it’s a grimace).


Foam rollers

How to do it – here is an indication of rolling for the Iliotibial band

Start at the end nearest the pelvis, just after the bony part of the intersection of upper leg and hip. Roll slowly down the side of the leg and stop just before the knee joint. Repeat 5 or 6 times. Rotate the body forward by 20 degrees and repeat the rolling – this rolls the outer sections of both iliotibial band and the vastus lateralis (part of quads). Rotate the body to the rear by 20 degrees and repeat the rolling – this rolls the outer edge of both the ioliotibial band and the biceps femoris (part of hams).
Put on as much pressure as possible and work a number of small rolls over any particularly tight/sore localized areas. Happy rolling.

Other rehabilitation for runners: 

  1. Runners lower limb injury prevention – Part 1
  2. Runners lower limb injury prevention – Part 2