The 5 Foam Rolling Mistakes You’re Definitely Making

Are you guilty of these super common foam rolling mistakes?

foam rolling mistakes

Foam rolling is one of those necessary evils of the fitness world, I love it and all the benefits that come with foam rolling, but I also hate it because it can hurt like a bitch. I’ve whimpered in pain on the foam roller more times than I can count– ah the joys of fitness.

foam rolling mistakes

I’ll admit I was clueless about the foam roller before I started studying for my personal training certification with NASM. This particular personal training certificate focuses a ton on the benefits of foam rolling and why it’s so crucial for both fitness newbies and marathon veterans.

The areas you should be targeting are:

  • Calves
  • IT Band (from right below your hip to right above your knee)
  • Adductors (inner thigh)
  • Piriformis (think the muscles of one butt cheek….)
  • Lats (the tender spot below your arm pit)

When you’re foam rolling you’re actually doing self-myofacial release and working to break up the knots within the muscle to release muscle tension. I’ve seen people do some weird ass things at the gym which they think is foam rolling.

While I worked as a personal trainer at a big box gym awkwardly trying to seek out new clients, one of the easiest ways to spot someone that needed help was based on their foam rolling technique.

foam rolling mistakes

Friends don’t let friends look like fools with the foam roller, so I’m here to let you in on a few secrets of foam rolling and the foam rolling mistakes you’re definitely making.

Looking for a foam roller? I highly recommend the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller from TP Therapy. I have zero affiliation with them, just a huge fan of the product and I like that they come in a few different sizes– perfect for travel and tiny NYC apartments. 

foam rolling mistakes

Foam Rolling Mistake #1: You’re Taking the “Rolling” Part Too Seriously

Hands down the most common mistake I see at the gym is people aggressively and quickly rolling on the foam roller like it’s a toy.

Please, please, please never do this again! One, you look ridiculous. Two, you’re not actually getting any sort of release when the aim of the game is self-myoscial release. Which brings me to…

Foam Rolling Mistake #2: You’re Not Allowing a Release to Happen

Did you know that you’re supposed to find a tender spot and sustain pressure with the foam roller there for 30 seconds in order to allow the muscle to release? If you don’t know, now you know.

If you’re acting like a rolly-polly and not allowing the muscle to release, sure you’re giving yourself a nice little massage, but you’re also not getting the true benefit of foam rolling.

When you’re holding one spot for 30 seconds, be sure to keep on breathing through the pain and do your best to let your body relax instead of tense up.

Foam Rolling Mistake #3: You’re Tensing Up.

It can be really tempting to tense up your entire body when you’re trying to find those tender sweet spots to release. Do your best to avoid any excess tension– it will help release the muscle faster and ensure that you’re getting the knots out.

Foam Rolling Mistake #4: Your Form Sucks

People contort their body in weird shapes while foam rolling to encourage the release to happen. Just like you wouldn’t allow your shoulders to hike up during a bicep curl and make a conscious effort to sit up straight at work, keep those same form cues in mind while you’re foam rolling.

Foam Rolling Mistake #5: You’re Not Foam Rolling BEFORE Exercising

While foam rolling is a nice way to cool-down and stretch post-workout, it’s even better as a part of your pre-workout warm-up. Breaking up those knots before working out will allow you to use your body to the best of it’s ability and avoid injury.

It does wonders to your legs if you foam roll before running, trust me.

foam rolling mistakes

Your turn: Foam rolling – love it or hate it??

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  • So my A+ on this quiz is counteracted by the fact that most of my foam rolling occurs in my mind. Quality over quantity… I know, I know, I’ve got to up the quantity. 🙂

  • If I foam rolled more, I think I would probably make all of these mistakes, and I do need to foam roll more, because I constantly have tight muscles. I think I would definitely be accidentally tensing up or doing it way too hard. I can tend to be a bit over the top on those sorts of things, so thank you so much for the advice!

    • Hope this helps! And it can be super tricky *not* to tense up if you’re tight, but makes a huge difference if you release that tension!

  • I just ordered a foam roller and I’m so excited for it to arrive! I’ll definitely be keeping these things in mind though, so thank you!