You have probably seen them, but are not quite sure what they are for or how to use them.
Do not worry, you are not alone.
That cylinder thing in the corner of your gym or at your local sports store is a foam roller.
They have gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the past few years and for good reason.
If you have had a massage, you understand the benefits and how good they make you feel. Now, imagine having the luxury of a massage at anytime. The scientific term of foam rolling is self-myofascial release (SMR). It is a fancy way of saying "self-massage". And that is what foam rolling is.
Why is this important to you?
Foam rolling is a fantastic way to improve range-of-motion and decrease painful and stiff muscles and joints. By applying pressure into the foam roller via your own body-weight, you signal the muscles, tendons and surrounding joints to relax.
- Relax stiff/painful muscle
- Increase joint range-of-motion
- Speed up recovery from exercise
- Ease of use
Now that we understand the why and the benefits of foam rolling, it's time to cover when and how.
At Dynamic, we encourage our members to foam roll before and after training as well as off days if they have one at home.
Completing our foam roll series before training calms common stiff areas such as the hips, ankles and shoulders. This will aid in the warm-up process prior to training by increasing range-of-motion and allowing you to get more out of your training, move better and decrease your risk of injury.
Foam rolling after training seems to have a great parasympathetic (calming) effect. This aids in the recovery and rebuild process of training and helps decrease muscle soreness. After all, the better you recover the better your results are going to be!
It is now time to get into the specific areas and technique we cover with all of our members in our DSC foam rolling series.
#1 The Lats
Your lats (latissimus dorsi) are the one of the largest and strongest muscles on your body. This is both a good and sometimes bad thing. It is good because strong lats are both aesthetically pleasing and help you move some serious weight in the gym. The bad is when your lats become too overactive and strong and pull your shoulders and posture into a problematic position. This not only is a common cause of back pain, but also neck and shoulder stiffness and injury. As you can tell, it is crucial to keep our lats calm and loose with the foam roller.
- Start on side with foam roller just under your arm pit
- Keep weight into down hip and lat
- Keep the down arm extended out straight
- Use hips to move back and forth from arm pit to bottom of lat
- Roll slowly on each side for :30-1:00
#2 The Glutes
If you sit for extended periods of time, this is going to be your go-to. When you are stuck in a hips flexed, seated position your hips quickly stiffen. This limits your ability to both extend and rotate through your hips. Without adequate hip range-of-motion you are not only going to limit your exercise by not be able to reach proper position, but you will drastically increase your risk of injury at your knee and low back. If you cannot move freely through your hips, you will compensate by excessively moving or rotating at your spine or knee. Healthy hips = healthy knees and low backs!
- Start seated on roller with knees bent, feet on floor
- Keep hands on floor behind you
- Cross one foot over the opposite knee
- Lean towards the side of the crossed leg
- Roll back and forth 3-4" over that side glute
- Roll on each side for :30-1:00
#3 The Quads
Your quads (quadriceps) are the big muscles in front of your thigh. They attach to both your pelvis and knee and help you walk, run, squat and lunge. Think of your quads as the lats of your lower body. We want them strong to aid in performance but too much stiffness can cause problems at both your hips and knees. This is a common problem area for most people and being consistent with foam rolling your quads can be one of the simplest fixes for knee pain.
- Start on forearms with foam roller directly below your hips
- Keep legs straight
- Use arms to roll from the bottom of your hips to the top of your knees
- Roll for :30-1:00
#4 The IT Band/Lateral Quad
Warning: this will be the most uncomfortable parts of your body to foam roll. This will get better though with time. This means we should spend more time on your lateral quad and IT Band as it is commonly overactive. This is due to compensation. We start to use our lateral quad instead of our glutes because of poor posture and stiff hips. As you can tell, everything is connected. Keeping this area calm goes a long way in keeping those knees healthy.
- Start on side with weight on forearm
- Start foam roller directly below hip on outer thigh
- The down leg you are rolling should remain straight
- Bring top leg in front with foot flat on ground
- Use down arm to roll from bottom of hip to top of knee
- Roll slowly on each side for :30-1:00
#5 BONUS - The Calves (with lacrosse or tennis ball)
Think about the amount of time you spend on your feet. Now think about the amount of time you sleep. Most people sleep in plantarflexed (foot pointed down) position. This keeps your calves working and contracted almost all day and night. Adequate ankle mobility is crucial for performance as it allows you to squat, run, jump and lunge effectively. It is also important for keeping your feet, ankles and knees healthy. Here, we like to use a lacrosse or tennis ball as it allows you to be more direct with your calf massage work. You can also roll the bottom of your feet, one foot at a time in a standing position.
- Start seated with one leg extended
- Keep arms behind you, hands on floor
- Place ball under calf
- Keep weight in hands and lift hips slightly off floor
- Keep some weight in ball and roll up and down your calf
- Roll each side for :30-1:00