The foam roller not only stretches muscles and tendons but it also breaks down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. By using your own body weight and a cylindrical foam roller you can perform a self-massage or myofascial release, break up trigger points, and soothe tight fascia while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.
A few things to keep in mind:
1. Rollers do vary in size and density. The harder the roller the more you will feel it. Once your foam roller starts to look squished in the middle, it’s time to buy a new one.
2. How do you foam roll? You can find a trigger point (sore or tight spot) and simply apply pressure there or you can roll along the entire length of the muscle. Or, you can do both. Roll slowly , about a second per inch. If you come to a very tight spot, pause there for 5-30 seconds and you should feel the area relax, then continue the rest of the length of the muscle.
3. How often should you foam roll? You should foam roll after every workout for at least 10-15 minutes. Some people will roll a little bit to warm up before a run as well. Adding in another 10-15 minutes of stretching is great as well. At minimum, you should roll 10 slow repetitions of each exercise, but you can certainly do more. Make sure you roll both sides of your body equally.
Below are some of my favorite foam rolling techniques:
Iliotibial Band (IT Band)
Lie on your right side with the foam roller just below your hip bone. Extend your right leg straight out, and bend your left leg and place it in front of your right leg. Place your right hand on the floor for balance, and roll along your outer thigh from the below your hip bone to just above your knee. Repeat on the other side.
Lie face down with the foam roller under your right thigh. Put your forearms on the ground or to add a little more pressure stay on your hands. Keep legs straight or for more pressure keep your left foot off the ground by stacking your feet on top of each other (toe of left foot on heel of right foot). Supporting your body weight with your forearms, roll up and down from the bottom of the hip to the top of your knee.
Sit with the roller under your calf muscles. Place the palms of your hands on the ground (fingers pointing toward your body). For added pressure place roller under right calf and keep your left foot off the ground by stacking your feet on top of each other (heel of left foot on toe of right foot). Supporting your body weight on your hands, roll up and down along your calf. Repeat on the other side.
Gluteal Muscles, Piriformis
Lie on your left side with the foam roller under your left gluteal area and your left leg bent (or for added pressure extended straight out). Bend your right knee and rest your right foot behind your left. Place both hands on the floor for support. Roll your right gluteal muscles, then repeat on the other side.
These basic foam rolling techniques can help keep your muscles happy and healthy, increasing blood flow to the area, and speed recovery. Most importantly it will help prevent injuries. Also, be patient & persistent. It will take a little time adjusting but the more you foam roll the less tender the area will feel. Happy rolling!
Paula Smith, ACE CPT