These days you’ll find ‘Foam Rollers’ in pretty much every gym, generally in the ‘stretching mats’ area. This is great news as it suggests we ‘exercising types’ are becoming more aware of the importance of taking time to stretch, which helps us to stay flexible and prevent injury (as you might remember from my previous post on stretching, here).
WHAT DOES IT DO & HOW DOES IT WORK ???
I had key-hole surgery on my knee a few years ago and my doctor recommended I use a foam roller, as it’s a fabulous tool in the physiotherapy industry – it massively helped my recovery by encouraging correct and supple muscular rebuild. By applying pressure using your own bodyweight on sore spots, it’s a kind of self-accu-pressure technique (self myofascial release) – or simply a nice self-massage! Manipulating the soft tissue will support and massage muscle groups whilst improving balance, stabilisation, flexibility and core strength. It’s a valuable part of any workout and I recommend incorporating it in a warmup (to help increase blood flow, and relieve muscle tightness to encourage better training) and likewise in a cool-down (to flush out toxins and help soften muscles for faster recovery).
They are available in different densities from relatively soft foam, to high-density rollers that are like granite. The more accomplished, athletic and muscular the user, the more dense the roller should be. Try out a few different ones and see which one’s for you. Work your way up from the softest as a beginner. If one of this blog’s goals is to share great tips that help you train smarter, this intermediate Foam Roller from Myprotein (which provides unlimited self-massage for under £15) comfortably ticks that box!!
HOW TO USE IT ???
This collection of pictures I shot in Regent’s Park below should help to demonstrate some of my favourite exercises with this training aid. Try to target the areas that are more tender, then roll them out to release & decrease some of the over-activity. It can be hard work and can even border on being painful or uncomfortable, much like stretching. It’s important to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort and a discomfort that can lead to injury – your body will tell you this loud & clear! Below are just a handful of many exercises to try!
6 SUGGESTED USES
1) Iliotibial Band (as per below picture)
Lie on your side place the roller under you, near the hip. Place the other leg’s foot on the floor. Roll along the outer thigh. Increase pressure by placing both legs on top of each other.
Place the roller under a calf. Rest the other foot on the floor. Roll from under the knee to the ankle. To add additional pressure place the other leg on top of each other. By moving the calf to one side and the other will target the muscle at different angles.
3) Adductors (as per below picture)
Lie on the stomach with lift one leg slightly to the side, keep the knee bent. Place the roller in the groin area of the bent leg and roll the inner thigh.
4) Piriformis (as per below picture)
Sit on the roller and place one foot on the opposite knee. Lean into one buttock and roll forward and back, using your supporting leg to control the pressure.
5) Quadriceps and Hamstrings (as per below picture)
Lie on your stomach with a roller placed under the front of your thigh and slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee. The same technique applies for the hamstrings, but apply pressure on the back of the upper-leg; to increase pressure, cross a leg over the other.
6) Biceps (as per below picture)
Lying on the side, with the upper arm against the foam roller keep the outside of the bicep pressed against the foam roller. Raise the hip off of the floor and support all weight on the arm and on your feet.