Should You Be Foam Rolling Before or After Training?

This is a simple enough question which was first brought to my attention by my osteopath. Should we be foam rolling before or after training?

Like most of us, I didn’t think it made a huge difference. I was initially taught to foam roll before I trained to work out the knots and tightness in my problematic areas… The typical ones, glutes and IT band at the very least, as I had imbalances which were causing me pain and affecting my lifting performance. As a lifter, I am expected to be very mobile relatively quickly in training. Since most of the members of my club were foam rolling before training, this was the standard.

An Osteopath Made Me Think Twice about Foam Rolling

Once I was being treated by an osteopath, my life changed. These are real life miracle workers! In particular, my osteopath works with International level athletes and has a background in athletic therapy. Whatever she told me, I believed. This is the first time someone said, in particular, NOT to roll before I trained, even though I was tight.

Breaking Down Tissue when You Need it to be Strong is Illogical

Her reasoning was straightforward and logical. “Only foam roll after you train, when the muscle is hot. You will be tearing down and breaking apart fascial tissue.”

You’re probably thinking, yeah, that’s the point.

But according to my favourite professional, breaking down tissue when you need it to be strong to perform is just illogical. Makes sense now?

This advice is particular to athletes who train at high intensities in resistance training. Powerlifters, weightlifters, and of course, Crossfitters. Anything which requires a lot of force means using all of your muscle fibers and all of the tightness that goes along with them. A loosey-goosey quad which is all torn up from rolling isn’t the ideal candidate for squats at above 90% max.

Would you want to do a hard workout after a relaxing deep tissue massage?

The objective of foam rolling, or self-myofascial release, is to break down the problematic (excessive) tightness which sticks to and impedes muscles and joints, as a massage would do. There are better ways to heat and mobilize joints for performance than digging into it. Imagine getting a deep tissue massage a few minutes before a workout. On the other hand, getting a massage after your training can play a significant role in recovery. Similarly, the benefits of foam rolling after training are immense.

A good 5 to 8 minutes of foam rolling the major muscle groups is more effective than stretching for the same amount of time when it comes to relaxing and oxygenating muscles. Foam rolling after your workout increases blood flow and breaks down knots and “stuck” tissue, helping them recover faster and more efficiently. Give it a shot and see what a difference it can make to your training!