Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique used by athletes and physical therapists to aid in recovery of muscles that are prone to being overexerted. Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle which is responsible in providing support and protection. Due to overuse, trauma, and inactivity the fascia can become restricted. This consequently causes inflammation, which can thicken the connective tissue, resulting in pain and irritation. More and more people are realizing that the myofascial release is very important to overall health and athletic performance.
Getting a massage from a therapist would be the ideal thing to do if you want to activate and strengthen the tissue, but does this not feasible for everybody and can’t be done on your own clock. Hence the foam roll, particularly combined with stretching, is a good way to release your own fascial system. It’s like getting a custom deep tissue massage of your own. Regular use of a foam roller is proven to reduce inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress, as well as improving circulation and flexibility.
If you’re new to foam rolling, it’s best to perform roller exercises once your muscles are warm. You’ll need to do a quick five-minute warm-up if you opt to do them right before a weight-training session or these exercises can be performed after your post-workout routine. For each exercise, slowly roll back and forth as described for 20 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. As you roll, relax your muscles with deep and slow breaths. The roller should always be positioned under your muscles and never onto your joints. And in case you hit a particularly tender spot, stop rolling and apply direct pressure for about 30 seconds or until the pain subsides.Incorporate this series of moves into your routine every alternate day for two to three weeks. After that try doing it once or twice daily; both before and immediately after your workout.
The calf muscles are often neglected when it comes to injury prevention. Using a foam roller to activate the myofascial tissue in the calves can prove very beneficial to runners and weight lifters,or any other form of physical exertion that takes a toll on the legs. Start by sitting on the floor with the roller underneath your calves. Firmly place your arms on the floor behind you and raise your butt. All your body weight should be distributed between your hands and the roller. Now slowly roll forward and back to move the roller up and down, starting from just below your knees to your ankles. To up the intensity, stack your legs one on top of another and do the move one sided.
- Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)
Prolonged periods of sitting at the desk can cause stiffness in the back and neck. Using a foam roller loosens the musculature of the upper back, alleviating tightness that may contribute to back, shoulder, and neck pain. Position the roller underneath your shoulder blades and rest your back on it. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift your butt and place your hands behind your head or cross them over your chest. Now keeping your core muscles tight, slowly roll forward and back so that the roller moves up and down between the middle of your spine and the top of the shoulders. Don’t tilt your head forward to look at your legs when you roll, this might place additional stress on the spine. Keep your head and neck aligned with your back at all times.
- Latissimus Dorsi
Popularly known as the “lats” this is a large triangular shaped muscle located in the back. This muscle tends to become strained mainly because all upper-body activity requires the active participation of this muscle. Foam rolling the lats provides quick and easy pain relief and can also help in correcting breathing patterns. Start by lying on your right side with your right arm extended along the floor and the roller directly under your right armpit. The roller should be perpendicular to your body. Once you find the necessary support using your left arm, roll up and down so the roller moves from your armpit to just above your waist. Once you have effectively finished, switch positions to work your left side.