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When to roll the muscles? Foam rolling before or after a workout? 

Publish date 10.08.2022

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When to roll the muscles? Foam rolling before or after a workout? 

Rolling muscles or fascia self-massage is being used more and more by amateur runners. However, they are not sure when they should do this kind of activity. What will bring you more benefits: foam rolling before or after training? Check it out!

Foam rolling before running 

A proper foam roller and properly guided exercises on this sports equipment will work great as a warm-up before running. Thanks to this: 

  • accelerate blood circulation and lymph flow,
  • improve muscles mobility, 
  • increase the temperature of muscle tissue,
  • loosen tense and stiff areas on your body, that would not allow you to have a full range of motion and could easily lead to injury. 

When you are training intensively, then muscle rolling should be only a part of the warm-up and not the whole thing. 

It is worth it to do the foam rolling before running when you are feeling that your muscles are stiff.  

Imagine that, you are going out to run. However, you feel that your left calf is tense and stiff. Because of that, during a workout, you do not have the full range of motion. This may easily lead to injury. In this case, it is worth it to pay more attention to this area of your body by muscle rolling. When the stiffness will leave your calf, do a normal warm-up that you had in mind at the beginning. Thanks to that, your body will prepare better for the upcoming training. You’ll eliminate the risk of injury. 

Muscle rolling – when to do it before running?

You’ll find foam rolling useful before running when:

  • you are going for a run in the early morning. You are stiff after the night, so you have to quickly make your muscles move and awaken them,
  • you plan to run after a day-long sitting ex. in front of the computer, and also you feel that your body is stiff and tense. 

How to foam roll before running?

You are wondering: should I foam roll before or after a workout? It is important to know the whole picture of the foam rolling before running, to decide. This is why in this sub point we will show you how to foam roll before a workout.

Foam rolling before running must be dynamic and energetic. This is why the movements you make will be much faster than those you would make by massaging yourself after a workout. There are special foam rollers dedicated to such rolling. They are characterized by grooves that are along the entire length of the roller. The grooves will prepare the muscle to work. 

It may happen that in your house you have only a roller that is smooth (without the above-mentioned groves). In this case, you should make movements on this equipment even faster. It is important to remember that for the beginner the second option of the roller is better. 

If you want to foam roll before the training: 

  • focus on large muscle groups, especially those that are stiff, and/or those that will be involved in the exercise,
  • make quick and dynamic movements, moving the foam roller under the particular muscles group,
  • slightly tense your muscles,
  • don’t look for pain, don’t focus on the sore areas, and don’t hold the roller on them, so as not to make the muscle too relaxed. The muscle will be much less efficient during training,
  • repeat the exercises on the foam roller only a few times. 3-5 minutes spent on the muscle rolling before running will be enough. 
  • if you feel that the muscle is already circulated, then move on to the next batch or finish rolling.

NOTE:

Foam rolling before running is not a massage. No one massages and relaxes muscles before a workout, because then the muscle will not be efficient and more prone to injury. This is why, during this activity, do not use small balls, duo-balls, or rollers with aggressive tabs. Why? Because these devices are used for deep, relaxing massage.

Rolling before running is just a good base for further warm-up.

Muscle rolling - when to do it?
Foam rolling – great as a part of the warm-up before running.

Foam rolling after running 

Foam rolling before or after a workout is a difficult question for some people. To resolve doubts, we will focus right now on this activity after running. Muscle rolling when you finish your training is designed to loosen muscles and accelerate their recovery. This is because blood circulation accelerates and quickly reaches muscles with nutrients. Increased lymph flow is also important. 

Muscle rolling after running may also reduce noticeable later DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). What is more, if you use a foam roller regularly, you may increase the mobility and flexibility of the muscle. This kind of exercise will also tone deep muscles, loosen your body, de-stress, and will calm your mind. 

Muscle rolling – when to do it after running? 

Do it after every training session. If you have to choose between foam rolling and stretching – pick foam rolling. Such self-massage stretches tense fascia very well. 

When to foam rolling – before or after stretching? 

Not only the question about foam roll before or after a workout is important. It is also crucial to know whether to roll the muscles before or after stretching.  

Foam rolling is a dynamic activity. Static stretching is used after training. According to the rule: first dynamic movements, then static stretching – roll your muscles after running, but before stretching. In addition, self-massage eliminates any adhesions or fascias thickening, making your stretching safer and more effective. 

To foam roll after running (depending on your skills and self-massages) choose a roller that is smooth with low or medium hardness. 

For areas of your body that are stiff, choose a more soft foam roller. 

NOTE: You want to reach deeper into the muscles? Use a grid foam roller, a small ball, or a small roller with a diameter of 5 cm. With a small ball, you will massage your feet, and the mini roller will reach the deeper lying calf muscles. However, such in-depth self-massage is best done in a separate training unit. 

How to foam roll after running? 

  • Focus primarily on the muscles most exploited during training. After running, roll calves, and thighs (quadriceps, biceps muscle, and iliotibial band), and do not forget about feet. 
  • Move the foam roller slowly and sensitively. 
  • When you come across a tense area and feel pain, hold the roller, increase the pressure slightly and wait for the tension to decrease. You can wait even 1 minute.
  • Repeat one set of exercises 8 to 10 times. 
  • The time of rolling the muscle or area of your body shouldn’t exceed 3 minutes. 

Note that foam rolling your muscles may be slightly painful. However, if the pain is too much for you to handle, you will be straining even more during the self-massage. The final result is that relaxation will not occur. This is why, when you feel that the pain is too much for you, reduce the intensity of the rolling. You can do this by: 

  • choosing a less hard roller, 
  • replacing the grid roller with a roller that is smooth,
  • choosing a foam roller with a larger diameter. 

However, if you only have one fitness roller, you can simply reduce the pressure of your body weight on the surface of the roller. When you feel too much discomfort when massaging your calf, shift your weight more on your hands or put the other leg on the roller. Thanks to this, your weight will be distributed over both calves. There will be much less pressure, and you will thus also speed up the roll itself. 

As you can see stretching with foam roller is very useful and important. You wan to know more about stretching after running? Check out our article: Stretching calves after running – how to do it correctly and comprehensively.

Summary

Foam rolling before or after a workout? Right now, we can tell you that the best thing to do is to roll your muscles after running. This kind of exercise should be used after any running or strengthening training etc. Its regular use will bring you the above-mentioned benefits. In turn, all this will translate into a better quality of your running. We hope that thanks to this article, you do not ask yourself: should I foam roll before or after a workout? Right now, you know everything crucial for this kind of activity!  

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