Regular foam rolling can result in improved mobility, strength, performance, and recovery.

Over the past decade, foam rolling—a form of self massage—has expanded its reach beyond the clinical, therapeutic setting and into mainstream environments. More and more, physically active folks turn to foam rollers, massage balls and other tools to prepare the body for movement and to recover from it. Look closely on the sidelines of a pro sporting event and you’ll likely spy players using a foam roller. The NBA’s LeBron James has been spied using TriggerPoint’s Grid Foam Roller, for example.

If you’re interested in becoming a better climber or want to reduce post-climb aches and pains, it’s time to make rolling out part of your daily routine. This article explains a few of the reasons why rolling is important and offers some simple “releases” to do before and after your climb.

Why Roll?

Foam rolling has largely been used to help the body recover from intense activity and to alleviate aches and pains. However, researchers have only scratched the surface of how self massage can help us. Here are a few of the many reasons why you should roll on the regular:

* Improved mobility. Rolling out your tissues can enhance your range motion making it easier to reach for the next hold. Plus, when the body is mobile, it’s less likely to suffer from poor form and technique, reducing strain on the body. That means fewer aches in the shoulders and elbows.

* Muscle activation. Rolling out has been shown to instantly activate muscle tissue, which will make you stronger and more stable on the ropes.

* Increased blood flow. Blood flow is necessary for optimal physical performance. Recent research shows that foam rolling results in an immediate increase in blood flow to the affected area.

* Warm Up. One of the main purposes of a warm-up is to, well, warm the body. Spend some rolling around and you’ll likely notice an increase in heat production.

Are you ready to roll? Check the video below for some key areas to focus on before and after hitting the ropes.


Foam Rolling Beta

But before you begin, here are a few hints to help maximize the foam rolling experience:

* Go slow. Briskly rolling back and forth may provide some physical feedback, but it’s not going to offer the most effective release. Make sure to take your time and roll slowly and deliberately.

* Go ground-up. Regardless of the releases you do, make sure to start with with the one closest to the ground. So, for the releases described below you’ll begin with the hips and work your way up.

* Don’t be a hero. If a spot on your body feels extremely painful—so much so that you can’t relax, it causes you to take quick, shallow breaths, or your body heats up quickly—move away from the area and focus on other spots that aren’t as painful. On a scale of one to 10 with 10 indicating severe pain, aim to stay below a six. Also, you should feel pressure, not pinching or stabbing types of pain.

* Be cool. Stay as relaxed as possible when you roll. Tight, contracted, or flexed muscle tissue will prevent you from getting the most effective release.

* Avoid injuries. Rolling over an injured area could make the problem worse. Instead, focus on areas surrounding the injury.

* Be time-sensitive. Spend only about 2 or 3 minutes on each area to reduce injury potential and to maximize circulation. Knots or tight spots can be persistent and rolling excessively can make matters worse. If a tight spot doesn’t ease up, move on to another one. You’re not digging for diamonds.

* Pain isn’t always an indicator of effectiveness. Pain or tenderness is a common side effect of rolling out. But the absence of pain doesn’t mean that the release isn’t working. Everyone’s experience is different. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand where your body holds the most tension.

* Talk to your doctor. Foam rolling can exacerbate certain conditions. Be sure to get clearance from your physician before using a foam roller.


The Releases

Check the snaps below for optimal body positioning and foam roller placement, then check the video below for a demo on how to perform the releases. These releases were chosen specifically to address the chronically tight and overworked areas of the body commonly experienced by climbers.

Hips/Glutes (“butt”)

Hip/glute release

Pectorals (chest)

Pectorals release

Latissimus Dorsi (“lats”)

Latissimus dorsi release

Thoracic Spine (upper back)

Thoracic spine release

Let’s Roll!