Self-Myofascial Release

On Monday I got to attend a self-myofascial release class at Mercer Health and Fitness. AKA a foam rolling class.

Foam roller

Whenever I’ve tried foam rolling, I’ve just rolled quickly back and forth across muscles, but in this class we took things a lot slower and I really felt the benefits. For those who are unfamiliar with foam rolling, here are the benefits:

  • Relieve muscle soreness
  • Provides a more balanced workout
  • Pain management
  • Loosens tight muscles & connective tissues
  • Elevates mood
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves nerve function

At the start of class, the instructor, Barbara Nolan, had me do a series of squats as she observed me from the front, side and behind. She did this to see if there were any significant muscle imbalances that we may need to address during the class. After that, we got down on the floor and the roller.

Basically we took each muscle and broke it down into fourths. So if we look at the quads… We started resting on the foam roller right up at the top of the quad near the hips. Barbara had us rest there for 30 seconds and then roll down to the next fourth, and hold for another 30 seconds. Repeat for the next fourth and hold, then down near the knees and hold. After you’ve done that you repeat the process in reverse, always making sure you work the muscle in both directions.

We worked on the lower body; piriformis, quads, hamstrings, calves, inner thighs and IT band. They’ve invited me to come back to class and learn the basics on working the upper body. I’m really looking forward to that because I really felt good after the class.

The instructor recommends foam rolling every other day to keep muscles supple and knot-free. I need to do more foam rolling, my muscles are constantly full of knots! We used long foam rollers like the one pictured. My foam roller is a short little thing, I did find it easier to work through the muscles completely on a longer roller. So if you’re in the market for a foam roller and have the space, I’d consider the longer one!

If you find a self-myofascial release class near you, I would definitely recommend taking one. I think it helps to get a few pointers. If you’re in Vegas and are interested in taking a class, look into Mercer Health & Fitness. Or let me know, perhaps I could work with Barbara and Matt, the owner, to see about setting up a runners foam rolling class in 2013!


  1. So did it feel dramatically better than just rolling over the muscle? It would take longer if you’re just holding each spot for 30 seconds. It sounds more like the trigger point stuff but with a standard foam roller instead of that branded trigger point gear.

    • Its all the same really, but I think the triggerpoint method can actually cause the opposite of the desired effect. I’ve watched the videos on triggerpoint’s website and I know a trainer who is triggerpoint certified/qualified or whatever, and he has everyone vigorously rolling back and forth while flexing the targeted muscle, which goes against everything NASM has taught me in CPT and CES. I know one of his clients personally who informed me it made things worse. Foam rollers can do wonders, but can never replace a licensed massage therapist who can perform a dry deep tissue.

      Jeff Decker

      • I agree that a foam roller can’t replace a professional. But I didn’t know for certain that it could make things worse. I’ve suspected that was a possibility though!

        • Well, the method you posted up is the very same that I use. I think its very safe and effective. I just think that contracting the muscle or rolling across it vigorously like the “TRIGGERPOINT” company recommends can make the muscle tense making it hard to let the roller in to do its job.

  2. Yes, I definitely felt my muscles release more than just rolling quickly over them. And it does take longer, but it felt more effective. The instructor recommend that you just do this while watching a TV show or something, so you’re multi-tasking! 🙂

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