Just a couple of years ago, the whole practice of foam rolling was something I have never thought of.
As a runner, I had no idea how tight I was in my hamstrings and glutes, and how effective these weird-looking cylinders when it comes to releasing these troubled spots.
That’s why I believe that foam rolling rocks! It actually works.
Even so, if you have no idea what foam rolling is or how to incorporate it into your training program, then fret no more. I got you covered, buddy.
By the end of this post, you will learn all you need to learn about the proper foam rolling techniques and exercises that will help you reach common tight spots in your body as well as offer you effective strategies to help you roll your way to relief.
What is Foam Rolling?
The fascia, which is the layer of tissue that surrounds your muscles like a sheath, can—due to stress, trauma, overuse injury, lack of stretching, you name it—become stuck together in what’s known as a knot, or a trigger point in the professional circles.
These knots result in hindered muscle movement. With this comes a drop in flexibility, and muscle efficiency.
Left ignored, these unwelcomed knots can lead to lead chronic pain and injury.
Foam rolling is the solution
Foam rolling is a self-massaging technique that can help you loosen up tender and stiff muscles and keeps the fascia happy and loose.
With a foam roller, you are mainly releasing the facial tension by applying pressure to the muscles—it is like getting a professional massage, minus the expensive bill.
Sure, this is not as efficient as a “hands-on” massage from a professional, but a foam roller is still the next best thing.
The desired effects include an improved range of motion, flexibility, and movement, increased blood flow and a faster recovery rate.
Foam Rolling Technique
Although I choose to refer to them as exercises, the focus should be on relaxing your muscles, not flexing them.
Therefore, make sure to relax into each exercise with slow and intentional movements to release and undo the knots.
Here are the 6 guidelines you need for the perfect foam rolling technique.
1. Take your time
Some areas can feel tighter than others. That’s why you have to take your time and stick with it, even if some of these proved to be extremely painful.
In fact, if foam rolling is painful, then you are doing it right. You are undoing muscle and tissue knots, after all.
2. Roll Slowly
To perform these exercises right, make sure to roll over the muscle slowly, scanning for areas that are too tight and/or troubled.
And when you find a troubled spot, don’t run away from it.
Instead, breathe deeply and use your arms or opposite leg to offer more support as you gently apply pressure to release the tightness.
As you apply more pressure, the muscles will incrementally begin to loosen, and the pain begin to dissolve.
If it’s too painful to withstand, stop rolling and rest on the hot spot for 30 to 45 seconds.
3. Small areas
To make the most out of these exercises, keep your focus on small areas by moving gradually rather in large repetitive movements that wrap the whole muscle, which might lead to inflammation.
4. Target’ em Right
Make sure to position the roller under the soft tissue you are aiming to loosen and/or release, and then slowly and gently roll your body weight back and forth across the roller while releasing the targeted muscle.
5. The Golden Rule
Roll on the soft tissues, never on the joints.
6. More Water Please
And drink plenty of water when you are done.
A Foam Rolling Routine For Runners
Try these 8 foam rolling exercises. This preventative foam rolling routine will take you only 15 to 20 minutes. Do this two to three times a week.
The glutes—gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius— take so much load when running and they are key when it comes to boosting running performance and preventing injuries like IT band syndrome and runner’s knee.
Start by lying on the floor, then raise your legs and place them on the roller at the sacrum—the back of your pelvis.
Next, to roll the glutes, slowly twist your lower body to the right, then to the left.
Keep it up for 30-second to one full minute.
2. IT Band & Outer Thigh
The IT band is a thick strand of fascia that runs along the thighs. This vital band stabilizes the knee during running, therefore, if you have a troubled or tight IT band, then you are risking the knee to track out of alignment, which can lead to runner’s knee and other overuse injuries.
Lie on your right side (think side plank position) with the foam roller under the right leg and on the outside of your thigh just below your hip. Next, roll between the bottom of the hips and the top of the knee joint.
Roll for 30 seconds to one full minute, then switch sides.
The quads are usually a tight area for runners, and this tightness can tug on your patellar tendon, leading to tenderness and pain around the kneecaps.
Lie on your stomach with the foam roller under the front of your thighs. Next, while holding your body straight, pull with your arms to roll yourself back and forth from hip to mid-thigh—down the length of the quad. Make sure not to roll over your knee joint.
For more pressure, try bending the knees.
Keep rolling for one to two minutes, and then proceed to the next exercise.
Sit on the floor with your right ankle crossed over your left, and place the foam roller under your left calf.
Next, put your hands behind you to raise your body up and support your weight, then start rolling up and down the length of your calf, from the back of your knee to the Achilles’ tendon.
Make sure also to roll along the inside and outside edges of the calf.
Roll for 30 to one full minute, then switch sides.
The adductors are the muscle group that runs along the inner thigh, and they are commonly tight in runners. Tightness in this area can inhibit proper glute function which can lead to serious overuse injury and stalled performance.
Lie facedown with your right leg extended slightly to the side, knee bent, then place the foam roller in the groin area of the extended leg. Begin with the roller close to your groin and roll down towards your knee.
Keep rolling for 30 seconds to one full minute, then switch sides.
The piriformis is a small muscle group that runs laterally from the back of the pelvis—aka the sacrum—to the outside of the upper thigh. The whole region can also get real tight, leading to some serious biomechanical problems.
Sit on the floor and place the roller in under the gluteus region—the middle of your glutes, then cross your left leg over your right quad.
Next, to start rolling, lean into one buttock and use tiny movement to roll out the posterior hip, scanning for any troubled spots.
Make sure to use your supporting leg to control (or increase) the pressure.
7. Lower Back
The lower back is a troubled area for most people—runners and non-runners alike. This pain is usually the by-product of high stress, too much sitting, weak and tight back muscles, bad running form and so on.
Plus, making sure that your lower back is flexible can directly affect the mobility and flexibility of your glutes, enhancing performance as well as warding off a lot of trouble and injury.
Sit on the floor, raise your pelvis and place the foam roller directly in the small of your lower back. Next, while using your hands for support, roll up and down the length of the lower back. Please be careful with your spine.
Roll for one to two minutes, then proceed to the next exercise.
As a runner, the hamstrings withstand a lot of stress, and in case of the absence of a regular stretching routine, these important muscles can become chronically tight, which can lead to a host of running injuries.
Plus, rolling your hamstrings can prevent lower back pain as well.
Sit on a foam roller with your legs outstretched, and roller placed under your right thigh. Next, place your hands behind you for support, then slowly roll back and forth from the base of your glutes to the top of your knees, taking your time to any troubled spot.
Make sure to turn your feet in and out to work different parts and angles of your hamstrings.
Roll for one minute then switches sides.
Featured Image Credit – Les Mills Through Flickr