I get asked all the time about effective ways to ease sore and tight muscles other than just traditional stretching. Today I am discussing the use of foam rolling and how it can help to decrease pain, muscle tightness and help to prevent injury. Taking the time to recover properly and heal your body in between workouts is so important.
So what exactly is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles. This form of stretching utilizes the concept of autogenic inhibition to improve soft tissue extensibility, thus relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle. Think of foam rolling as a self massage technique to decrease muscle tightness and ease tension. I also find it helpful to use a foam roller prior to my workouts to help prepare my muscles for strengthening.
Here is a great 10 minute routine you can perform for the lower body and spine. Perform these techniques for 1 min on each side. You can perform this routine before a workout to prepare your body or you can also perform afterwards to prevent soreness. I have some patients that like to do both! You can decide for yourself based on what your body needs and what your schedule allows.
- Glutes: Place your foam roller on the floor and sit on it having one foot over the opposite knee in a figure 4 position as shown here. Roll along your buttock in a front to back motion from your lower back to the bottom of your buttock. Keep your abs engaged by drawing your navel in towards your spine and keep your back nice and straight.
- IT band: Place your foam roller on the floor and get into a side lying position with the outside of your thigh over the foam roller and your other leg crossed in front for support as shown. Roll the entire outside of your leg from your pelvis to your knee in an up and down motion. Of course, keep your abs tight and your back straight.
- Hamstrings: Place foam roller on the floor and sit on the floor supporting yourself with your hands. Place the back of one thigh over the foam roller and the other leg on the floor with your knee bent for support as shown. Roll the entire back of your thigh from the bottom of the buttock to your knee in an up and down motion.
- Quads: Place the foam roller on the floor and lie on your stomach with the front of your thighs over the foam roller. Roll the entire front of the thighs from the top of your hips to the top of your knee in and up and down motion. Support yourself with your elbows and forearms and remember to keep your abs engaged and spine straight.
- Calf: Place the foam roller on your calf muscle as shown here. You can also cross the other leg over the leg being treated to increase the pressure if you desire. Roll the entire calf in an up and down motion, pausing at any spots that feel tender.
- Thoracic spine ( upper back): Lie over a foam roller positioned at shoulder blade level with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and roll your body on the foam roller from the middle of your back to the base of your neck.
- Bonus stretch: Place the foam roller at shoulder blade level and lay over it letting your arms fall out to the sides; relaxing your lower body: as shown below. Hold this for 1 min; or longer if you have time, this feels amazing!
Have extra time? Check out my post on yoga therapy for tight hips for some stretching to combine with this routine here!
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