Strictly Foam Rolling

Strictly Come Dancing star, Laura Whitmore, recently posted a photo on Instagram of her injured ankle, surrounded by tape, ice pack and foam roller. 

Foam rolling is now a popular method of self-massage, and you will find them in most gyms and sports enthusiast’s homes. But there are limitations and dangers to indiscriminately rolling your muscles, and plenty of research still to be done. 

So far, the few studies that have been done, show that foam rolling does not improve performance, but may improve muscle tone and reduce post exercise fatigue. So it is important to be clear what your objective is when setting out with your roller. 

Joe Batey, our Sports Osteo, has put together some advice on how to get the best from your foam roller and avoid injury.

Foam rolling: what to do and what not to do 

Choosing a roller

  • First things first, get yourself a good roller, if you buy cheap you get cheap. I’ve had my Trigger Point Therapy roller for 5 years, and it’s still intact
  • Go for soft foam, and avoid hard pipes, and rollers with extreme spikes or nobbles 

When should you roll

  • Before exercise works best, gently warm up, then foam roll, this will promote flexibility of tissues ready for exercise, and can help reduce aches and pains afterwards
  • As lots of stretching before activity has now been shown to reduce performance, foam rolling may be a good alternative
  • Before bed is a good time, it will help to relieve tension held in muscles and can help with a good nights sleep 

How much should you do

  • A few times a week before bed and/or before each training session
  • Start lightly, then work deeper
  • Slowly roll over your chosen area for 3-5 minutes then move on
  • Spend no longer than 10 – 20 seconds rolling a ‘knot’ or trigger point
  • Foam rolling might feel uncomfortable but it should not be painful 


  • Aim to do 5 reps at the top of a muscle group, 5 in the middle, 5 at the bottom and then 5 along the length of the whole muscle

 What to avoid

  • DO NOT foam roll your ITB (ilio-tibial band), it is not a muscle and you can’t stretch it. It’s a fibrous band of tissue that extends from your TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae at the top of the hip) to your knee. Instead work more on the hip area: the glutei (buttock) muscles, TFL and quadriceps (front thigh)
  • Avoid rolling your low back, inflammed areas and over joints
  • Do not use direct pressure on a tight area/trigger point for longer than 20 seconds to avoid compressing and damaging tissues
  • Avoid poor posture. Rolling your muscles involves supporting yourself in various positions. Ideally work with a personal trainer, Sports Osteo or Physio for the first time, to ensure good posture

 For some safe and effective foam roller exercises, visit the Downloads page for a free handy print out. 

Emma Wightman


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