Whether you’re training for a marathon, power-lifting at your local CrossFit box or suffering from body aches and pains, foam rolling (also known as “myofascial release”) is an effective way to treat yourself and help with muscle recovery. Webs of connective tissue known as “fascia” cover every muscle in our bodies. When we work our muscles and continuously break them down, over time the muscles become very tight and the fascia will start to thicken and shorten to protect the muscles from more damage. Trigger points (bundles of tight-contracted muscle) are caused when fascia over contracts and leads to stiffness, a decrease in range of motion and can create moderate to severe soreness.
Foam rolling applies pressure into the muscles to reduce soreness and tightness and massages away fascia buildup. Using a foam roller can also improve mobility and flexibility, prevent injuries from occurring, and remove lactic acid buildup to aid recovery.
There are several foam rollers to choose from but I’ve found the GRID foam roller by Trigger Point to be my favorite. The three-dimensional surface gets deep into the muscles and tends to be much firmer than traditional foam rollers.
Here are 6 of my favorite foam rolling exercises that I like to do for roughly 30 seconds or until I feel the muscle loosening up. Listen to your body and do what feels good.
1) Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)
Starting Position: Rest your upper back against the roller and position it underneath your shoulder blades. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Lift your glutes and place your hands behind your head or you can also cross your arms over your chest.
Roll: Slowly roll forward and back using your legs but keeping your feet flat so that the roller moves up and down between the middle of your back and the top of your shoulder blades.
2) Quadriceps & Hip Flexors
Starting Position: Lie face down with the roller positioned directly under your one of your thighs. Bend your elbows with your forearms flat on the floor to support yourself. Meanwhile your entire leg should be straight and suspended in the air. (Note: Your feet should not be touching the floor)
Roll: While keeping your core tight, use your forearm to roll your body forward and back to move the roller up and down the entire quad and hip flexors from the top of the hip to just above your knee. After 30 seconds – switch sides and repeat.
3) Iliotobial (IT Band)
Starting Position: Position your right hip against the roller on the floor. Stack your legs together and put your right forearm on the ground for support.
Roll: Using your right forearm to assist the motion, roll your thigh back and forth over the roller from just below your hip to above your knee. Continue rolling for 30 seconds, then switch to work your left hip.
Starting Position: Place the foam roller under the left glute and position your body at a 45 degree angle with your left forearm on the ground behind you. Bend your right knee with your foot flat on the floor to support the rolling motion. Your left glute should feel most of your weight.
Roll: Roll your glute back and forth across the roller (the range of motion should be small in order to really hit the targeted area). After the muscles begins to loosen shift your weight to the other side and repeat.
Starting Position: Sit on the floor with the roller underneath your right calf. Cross your left ankle over your right. Place your hands on the floor behind you and raise your glutes off the floor – most of your body weight should be in your hands for support.
Roll: Using your hands, slowly roll forward and back to move the roller up and down the entire calf from just below your knees to above your ankles. Switch legs to work your left calf.
6) Piriformis (Hips)
Starting Position: Sit directly on top of the roller with a tall spine. Cross your right leg over the left and place right hand directly behind you on the floor for support. Hold onto your right knee with your left arm.
Roll: Slowly roll forward and back to move the roller up and down the hip. Repeat on the other side.