1. You don’t need to roll your IT Band
When we foam roll, we are trying to roll specific muscles in order for them to relax and gain more flexibility. Keyword here being “muscles.” The IT Band is actually a band of tendon, coming from the TFL (tensor fascia latae) which is located laterally to the pelvis. Instead of spending so much time focusing on rolling your IT Band out (you still should roll it out), spend more time rolling out the TFL and other hip musculature that influence the muscles surrounding the femur such as the glute muscles, TFL, and psoas.
2. You are not breaking up “knots” in your fascia
“Knots,” commonly referred to as trigger points, are bunched up muscle tissue, and in order to realign these “knots” you would need more hardcore manual therapy with directional tension (such as A.R.T. and graston). Foam rolling is merely compression on the tissues, while beneficial, is ineffective for breaking up bunched muscle tissue.
3. The effects of foam rolling are transient
So, if we are not able to break up muscle tissue to make our muscles longer, what’s really happening? The reason foam rolling is able to increase your flexibility is not so much by anatomically lengthening the muscle, but rather by influencing the neurological system. In your muscles, you have receptors called “muscle spindles” and “golgi tendon organs (GTO),” which detect rate of muscle contraction and rate of muscle lengthening respectively. When we apply pressure to these receptor sites, we are creating an overwhelming stimulus to the receptor which makes them relax. When we are inhibiting the receptors, they eventually become active again, which is usually within an hour. This is why it’s important to foam roll right before your training session.
4. The slower you roll the better
When you foam roll, think of the two “S”s: soft and slow. When your going slow over these receptor sites, you are overstimulating them to shut off which you cannot do if you are passing over them too fast. If you’re wondering how slow you should be going, it should take you 15 seconds to foam roll the front of your leg from the hip to the knee and then 15 seconds from the knee back up to the hip.
5. Foam rolling shouldn’t hurt
When you are foam rolling and pain causes your muscle to tighten up, you won’t be able to get deep within the muscle fibers. Instead, foam roll on the muscle just before you start feeling immense pain, go into the pain a tiny bit, and then back off again. Keep doing this until you can get deeper and deeper into the site that was once painful but is now bearable without having to contract the muscle.