5 FOAM ROLLING EXERCISES TO HELP ALLEVIATE SORE AND STIFF MUSCLES | CONOR | APRIL 2017
Most people have seen a foam roller, either lying around on the floor of the gym or possibly in the corner of their own home. Though it seems like an innocuous piece of equipment, the foam roller can be a great help in combatting many issues that we all face on a day-to-day basis. From loosening up your back after sitting at a desk all day to helping you get moving again after sitting in the car or a plane for hours on end.
Here are 5 areas that will make you feel great after foam rolling:
1. ITB (Illiotibial Band)
The ITB is the band of tissue on the outside of your thigh. Most people may have tried foam rolling on this before and given up due to the pain. For all the runners out there (especially coming in to the summer months), this band can become excessively tight and be a major cause of knee pain. By using a foam roller to effectively lengthen and loosen this band, a lot of the knee pain can be resolved and potentially (if used beforehand) completely avoided.
Lay on the foam roller and move your body up and down so that the outside of your thigh is being pushed against the roller. If you feel any particularly sore spots, keep pressure on them until it starts to dissipate. Continue rolling for 2-3 minutes per leg.
2. Upper Thoracic Spine
From sitting at a desk all day or from just generally having poor posture, our upper back will tend to become kyphotic with our shoulders rounded forwards and the upper back becoming very stiff. By using a foam roller on our upper back, we can loosen the muscles in that area plus occasionally get a ‘crack’ (release of air in a joint) that will both feel nice and decrease the stiffness in the back.
Move the foam roller up and down your upper spine. Lift up your hips from the floor to add more pressure to the roller and continue the movement. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
3. Glute Complex
By using a foam roller on the glutes, we will not only be helping the ITB be released (most of the Glute Max attaches to the ITB), but will also be helping our entire hip complex and lower back. For anyone that has had a bad back from lifting something heavy, a lot of that stiffness and pain actually stems from the glutes*. They will become ‘locked up’ and ‘stiff’ to act as a safety mechanism to stop your back moving any further. A lot of that pain can be released through the use of a foam roller.
*please see an Allied Health Professional for accurate diagnosis of back pain.
Cross your leg of the glute complex you want to work before putting it on the foam roller. Move the roller all over your glutes, focussing on the upper part closest to your back. Continue for 2-3 minutes per side.
4. Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
Releasing of the Lats is not a very common use of the foam roller though this is unfortunate as it is a very rewarding exercise. The Lats make up your ‘wings’ on the side of your back and attach onto the inside of your upper arm. When these are tight, they will pull your shoulders forward and stop you from lifting your arms above your head. After having these released, you will have so much more movement through your shoulders and upper back and feel a lot ‘freer’.
Lay on the foam roller with your upper arm above your head and the side of your back on the roller. The roller should be near your underarm but shouldn’t go over or into your shoulder. Continue for 2-3 minutes per side.
5. Length-ways Along Spine
By lying on the foam roller with it length-ways down your spine, you’ll be able to let your chest open up and your shoulders fall back to the floor. This is an easy exercise to accomplish as you simply lay on the foam roller and let gravity do its work. This will make you feel a lot more ‘open’ after being leant forward throughout most of the day.
Simply lay with your spine down the foam roller. Have your arms out wide to help open up your chest. Breathe deeply and let your chest and shoulders fall down towards the floor. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
These are all simple exercises that don’t take up much time or space. The benefits you will feel from performing these exercises just a few times a week will be enormous and will help to make your day to day life a lot easier and more comfortable.