When it comes to working out knots and alleviating muscle stiffness, you just can’t beat foam rolling. Also known as self-myofascial release, foam rolling was once a technique used mostly by coaches, fitness therapists, and professional athletes. However, these days everyone is hopping on the foam rolling bandwagon, and with good reason. It really does do the trick when it comes to the relief you’re looking for.
Knowing foam rolling is something you’d like to try is one thing. Making sure you get the most out of the experience is another. The following are a few must-try moves that are sure to put you back in tip-top condition in no time.
Upper Back Roll
Lie down on the floor with your roller underneath your upper back, and your arms crossed in front of you. While placing your weight on the roller, gently raise your pelvis off of the floor. Carefully shift your weight to the left while rolling your mid to upper back. Then switch to the right side and repeat.
To perform the calf roll, you’ll need to be seated. Position your foam roller beneath your lower leg while your other leg is placed on the floor, the better to safely support your weight. Position your hands at your sides and use them to gently raise your pelvis from the floor. Your weight should be placed on the calf with the roller underneath as you do this. Gently and carefully roll from just beneath the knee all the way down to the top of your ankle. Switch legs and repeat.
IT Band Roll
Position yourself comfortably on your side. Place your foam roller underneath your bottom leg between the knee and hip. Cross your top leg comfortably in front of you. As you do this, gently begin to place your weight on your bottom leg. Do this to the greatest extent you can while remaining comfortable. Roll the length of your leg from knee to hip and back. Switch legs and repeat.
Gently lie on the floor so that one of your inner thighs is positioned against your roller. Gently and carefully shift your weight so that as much of it as possible is against the roller. Focus on relaxing your inner thigh muscles as much as you can while rolling the area between your knee and hip. Switch legs and repeat.
To perform the quadriceps roll, position yourself on the floor face down. Your weight should be supported comfortably by either your forearms or your hands. Position your foam roller beneath one of your legs while keeping the foot of that same leg off of the ground. Gently shift as much of your weight as you can tolerate onto that leg and roll the area from just below your hip all the way down to the top of your knee. Switch legs and repeat.
Seat yourself on the floor with both of your legs positioned over your foam roller. (The roller should be against the back of your upper legs). Position your hands firmly at your sides to help support your weight. Gently and carefully lift your pelvis off of the floor while shifting as much of your weight as possible to one of your legs. Consciously relax the hamstring area of your leg, to the greatest extent possible, as you gently roll the area between your knee and hip. Repeat the process on your other leg.
Lower Back Roll
Sit on the floor with your foam roller positioned firmly underneath your lower back. Your arms should be crossed in front of you and your shoulders should be protracted. Gently raise your pelvis off of the floor while leaning back against the roller. Roll back and forth, taking care to keep your weight off of your spine. Instead, focus on placing your weight on the muscles to either side of your spine. Repeat the process on the other side.
Place your foam roller of choice on the floor. Gently lie face down so that the roller is positioned at shoulder height. Extend one of your arms forward. (The roller should be positioned right below your armpit.) While carefully pressing your chest into the foam roller, use small, gentle movements to move the roller back and forth across your chest muscles. Then extend your other arm and repeat on the other side.
Place your foam roller on the floor and sit on it. Gently bend your knees and cross one of your legs so that your ankle is positioned firmly on top of your knee. Carefully shift your weight to your crossed leg and move your gluteal muscle over the roller. Switch and repeat on the other side.
Lie down on the floor with your roller positioned underneath your back, but off to one side. It should be just underneath your armpit. Decide which side you’d like to work on, first, and keep that arm stretched to the side as you roll your weight over the foam. (Be sure to keep your upper body off of the ground to the greatest extent possible.) When you’re ready, switch sides and repeat.
Getting the Most out of Your Foam Roller Movements
While there’s no hard and fast rule as to how long you should perform each of the foam roller exercises above, 20-30 seconds is a really good place to start. When working areas that are extra sore or that have major knots, you can certainly go for longer.
To make your foam rolling experience as comfortable as possible, perform your movements on a good yoga mat. This not only provides traction but adequate cushioning against hard floors. Always be sure to buy your foam rollers, mats, and other workout recovery supplies from solid vendors with good reputations for selling excellent products and great track records for stellar customer service. Your knots and soreness will be things of the past in no time!