Welcome to Mab & Stoke’s proprietary workout series. We believe that movement is medicine and fitness is for all. So, each month, we’ll bring you a new routine from a trainer in our community. Next up: a foam rolling cool-down from Dan Daly, CSCS, owner of Train Daly in New York City. 

Ever feel great after finishing a tough new workout only to wind up with some aggravating muscle aches about 12 hours later? We’ve been there, too, and it isn’t fun.

Enter foam rolling. An article recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that foam rolling might be a good option to treat or prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness—those aches you feel after trying a new type of physical activity or exercise. 

And the potential benefits of foam rolling don’t stop there. Anecdotal evidence suggests it can improve blood flow and decrease muscle tension (which could lead to pain), Daly says, as well as improve range of motion.

Some research seems to back up these benefits. For instance, a small study recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found an increase in soccer players’ blood flow immediately after foam rolling, which authors said could help with post-exercise recovery. Another, from the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, noted that foam rolling could be performed to increase a joint’s range of motion, making it useful pre-exercise, too. 

Intrigued? We don’t blame you! But before we launch into the step-by-step of any foam rolling routine, let’s start with some of Daly’s basic tips.

Gear Up

There are a ton of foam roller options out there. There’s a whole spectrum of firmness, for one thing, and some rollers have texture like truck tires, Daly notes. There are also vibrating, heating, and cooling features available. And on top of all that, there’s other equipment you might want to consider as well. 

“In some instances, instead of a foam roller, you might use what we call a trigger point ball,” Daly explains, “which can get into smaller muscles, or get closer to the joint, or be more focal because of their size.”

What’s best for you will depend on the area you’re working on, he says, but he recommends having a mid-range density roller and a trigger point ball.

Check Your Technique and Time Investment

As for technique, Daly advises rolling up and down (or in a “North-South” direction) with a little bit of side-to-side motion.

“There needs to be an element of heat, pressure, [or] friction,” he says, “but not to the point of pain, bruising, numbness, [or] tingling.” 

Your technique can also change depending on when you’re foam rolling. Before a workout, lighter, more vigorous rolling might be your best option to stimulate your nervous system and get you ready to train, Daly notes. But it shouldn’t distract you from the main event. 

“You don’t want to be spending so much time foam rolling before your session that it costs you time that you might have otherwise exercised,” he says. “Because some of the benefits from foam rolling can probably also be accomplished by just moving.” So, he recommends spending a minute or less on each area you’re rolling out.

After a workout, Daly advises deeper and slower rolling to put yourself in a rested state and start up the recovery cycle. And spend as much time as you have on this activity, he adds — unless, of course, you’re starting to feel significant pain or experience bruising.

Mab Maker Tip: Consider doubling (or tripling) up on recovery with Recovery Mab Sticks and Recovery Cream

“I think 10 minutes a day of mobility and recovery work can really add up if people can just [take it in] little chunks, and focus more on frequency than duration,” he says.

A word of caution: A foam roller is not a substitute for seeking out a diagnosis, Daly says. If you keep trying to roll something out and it always feels tight, there’s probably a reason, and you might want to see a medical professional. 

The Routine

Typically, Daly would advise tailoring a foam rolling routine to your individual needs and goals, but this sequence is his suggestion for a basic, head-to-toe cool-down. In essence, you’ll tackle the fronts, sides, and backs of the muscles around your major joints – shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles (side note: never roll over the joints). Throughout the routine, remember to focus on tender spots (but be gentle on them!) and take your time.

  1. Start with the shoulder girdle

Instructions: First, roll out your pecs and lats around your shoulder joint. (Your lats are the two large segments of muscle alongside the backbone that extend into your armpits.) Also roll the area around your shoulder blades.

  1. Tend to your hips

Instructions: In essence, you want to roll out everything between your knees and your pelvis. Have a seat on the foam roller to roll out your glutes from bottom to top, running up slightly into the lower back. Make sure you also tackle your inner thigh muscles, quads, and hamstrings as well. 

  1. Finish up below the knee

Instructions: Between your knee and your ankle, roll out your calves and peroneal muscles on the sides of your legs. You can also roll the tibialis anterior muscle on the front of your leg (near your shin). 

Want to further amp up your recovery? Recovery Mab Sticks are designed to bring relief to hard-working bodies. Packed with turmeric, ginger, and CBG, they’re perfect for mixing into your post-workout water or smoothie.