First of all, let’s lay down what foam rolling can and can’t-do because the concept has been battered from pillar to post in the last 5 years.
Foam Rolling Will Not;
Alter tissue length. Ie Makes your hamstrings longer.
Change fascia. A crowbar can’t. The stuff is tough.
Improve dynamic performance. Strength work will do that.
Prevent injury. Strength work will do that.
Foam Rolling Will;
Help you recover.
Reduce, one to three day post-exercise soreness or, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Have you more comfortable in repeated bouts of exercise.
How does it work?
We don’t know. Science tells us it definitely doesn’t change the physical properties of our muscles. They are a way to tough for that.
There is an idea that the roller stimulates our nerves and sends a message to the brain that, ‘this area is OK, just tender’, then the brain ‘down regulates’ the signals to the muscles and the muscles relax. Much like a massage. You definitely feel nicer and lighter afterward.
There may also be some fluid effects like helping move our lymphatic fluid around which is our bodies garbage removal process. This fluid kills off all the microdamage and lays down the good stuff after exercise. Rolling and massage may aid this process.
Well, should I do it then?
Yes. There is no doubt you feel better the few days after a tough run or workout. You will be less sore, recover faster and be ready to go again.
When should I do it? The night of the exercise and the next day. I would spend 1-2 minutes on any muscle group that is sore.
BONUS = pair it with 15-20 really, really deep breaths (basal breathing) and exhale all the way out. Research shows us that doing this puts your body in the healing, parasympathetic nervous system. This also will help you sleep better and sleep = recovery.
Always roll an area and then get up and try something simple like a squat. If you feel better then keep going with that in your routine. If there is no change then find something else that gives you more bang for your buck.