It is becoming more and more common theses days to walk into any gym and they have a designated “stretching” area. The newest edition to that area consists of a 3′ long 5″ diameter tube made of dense foam. I give you the foam roller and it will definitely change the way you think about warming up, cooling down, and “stretching” in general.
Foam Rollers are used for soft tissue therapy. It’s essentially like having a massage therapist in your gym that doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for a massage. 10 years ago physical therapists and strength coaches had no idea what this concept was, but today nearly every strength and conditioning facility (and the good commercial gyms), you will find a full array of foam rollers varying in length and density. Physical Therapist Mike Clark is credited with the initial exposure to the community to the foam roller, which he called “Self-Myofascial Release”.
How you use the roller is quite simple. Use your bodyweight to apply pressure to sore spots on your body, and roll over the muscle. Initally the foam roller was used for more of an Accupressure concept. The “points” or sore spots on the body were described as trigger points, knots, etc. Today it is used for several different reasons. It helps to increase your tissue temperature, increases blood flow to the muscles, helps to break up scar tissue/connective tissue in the muscles, and it helps to remove knots in the muscles. Think about it like this: think of your muscle as a rope with a knot in the middle. If you pull of the ends of the rope what happens? The knot gets tighter (this is what static stretching does). The foam roller when applied to the knot will help to untie the knot and thus getting rid of it.
Where Should You Roll?
Any muscle that feels “tight” should be rolled, because stretching isn’t going to work!!!
A great start would be the legs, but more specifically the Glutes and the Piriformis. Its simple enough, sit on the roller and roll forward and back on your butt. To get a little bit of a deeper roll, the picture above shows the best position to get the area.
You can do the same for your hamstrings and calves, stay in the same position and just roll up and down over the targeted area.
The Glute Medius and IT Band (iso-tibial) gets a little more difficult. To get these muscle groups you need to lay down on your side (similar to a side plank) on the roller. Start just below your hip and roll up and down to just above your knee.
Next is the Quads and the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latte). Lay prone on the ground (plank position) and roll up and down over your quads.
Last for your legs is the Adductors. This position is difficult to describe on the computer, but its basically the inside of your legs. The Picture below shows the correct position. Start at your groin and roll in and out towards your knee.
The Last 2 I will describe are for your back, more specifically your mid/lower trap, and the rhomboids, as well as your lats. The first is simple, lay on top of the roller so it is perpendicular to your body, and roll up and down on your back. Its very important here that when you roll over your lower back to not hyperextend your lower spine (keep it neutral). As for your lats, its a similar motion just twist your body slightly so one side of your back is not touching the roller, lift that same arm straight overhead (parallel to the floor) and roll. Here is another picture for rolling the lats.
How long should you Roll?
There is no universal set number when it comes to Rolling. As a general guideline I usually say 6-8 repetitions per muscle group, but roll as long as you like. Rolling all together should take between 5 and 10 minutes of total time. You will certainly feel better, and better prepared to workout after rolling rather than walking on the treadmill for the same time.
If you have any questions about foam rolling please don’t hesitate to ask.