Ask any elite athlete and they will tell you how invaluable their foam rollers are. Used on a daily basis, it’s super-versatile and can be useful as a massage tool to work out muscle knots and trigger points around the body.
By gently easing your body over the foam, it relaxes the muscles by using the body’s natural response to pressure (myofascial release).
You can also challenge your balance by doing lower body exercises, abdominals and then finish up using the roller as a stretching tool.?
The aim is to roll over your body parts searching for trigger points. Once you find the sore points or muscle knots roll back and forth about eight times, breathing deeply while pausing on the sore spot and working into the muscle until the pain starts subsiding.
It will take a few goes’s before you start retraining the muscles to release tension and re-lengthen as our muscle memories tend to want to return to its former state. We have to reteach our bodies that long, stretched muscles are the norm!
Foam Roller Exercises (scroll through the slide show)
1. This is a great technique to soothe a tight upper back, shoulder blades and joints. Protect your neck by placing your hands behind your head (without pulling on the neck) with hips off the mat. Slowly roll down to end of your ribs before rolling back up again.
2. For neck tension relief, let the roller sit under your neck and just gently rock your head from side to side trying to keep your shoulders lowered and relaxed.
3. Upper back and shoulder stretch, great for the rotator cuff muscles and tension in the neck
4. Another stretch that gets into your lats, you can focus on one side at a time to deepen the stretch.
5. Tricep stretch, aim to take your head towards the mat to deepen the stretch
6. If you have to blast your lower body, this one will help. Use your upper body to roll up and down your quads, you will find turning your toes in or out will give you a different result
7. Iliotibial band stretch, if this muscle is tight you will know it! Roll up and down your outer thigh to work out knots
8. To release calves lift hips off the floor for greater pressure and roll top to bottom
9. Simply lay with a neutral spine (no arching back) and release your shoulders by placing back of palms on the floor.
10. To reset the spine, feel the roller on every joint while drawing your pelvic muscles towards the spine. Without allowing your ribs to flare, maintain a neutral spine and imagine a tennis ball under your chin. Remember to keep shoulders relaxed and away from the ears. To work your transverse abdominus slide one leg out at a time alternating sides returning to start position.
11. Use the roller to create an imbalance and challenge your core muscles with abdominals
12. For lunges bend your front knee and extend your back leg out straight as you lower into a lunge, sliding your shin over top of the roller. Slowly rise up out of the lunge, drawing the roller in towards you as you stand.
13. Hip abductor stretch. Using the roller gives you a little more leverage to get deeper into the hips
14. This shoulder stretch is nice for getting into the deltoids, biceps. Aim to take chest to the floor without resting shoulder on the ground
15. Lie on side with the foam roller under armpit working trigger points for rotator cuff and latissimus dorsi. Slowly roll from armpit to halfway down side of the body
16. A challenging abdominal exercise, use the roller to roll in and out from a curled position to horizontal without dropping the hips into plank position maintaining shoulders away from ears
So as you can see it is a useful but simple piece of equipment to have handy just remember to breathe..!