Foam Rolling for Recovery

First and foremost – what is foam rolling?  Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release, applies pressure to specific areas of your body to help aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function.  It’s a technique massage therapists have been using for decades, just in this case the foam roll takes the place of the massage therapists’ hands.  Foam rolling can have a wide range of benefits for anyone but especially for someone who works out.

When we exercise, we are inducing small tears and swelling in muscle fibers which overtime can develop into adhesions and scar tissue which will eventually cause tightness in muscles.  Foam rolling helps to smooth out these blocks and break down the adhesions which will help to increase the blood flow within the muscles and increase overall range of motion.  Overall it will help smooth out and lengthen your muscles over time and helps to return them back to normal function.  Normal function means that your muscles are healthy, elastic and ready to come back in for your next training session.  Yes, foam rolling can be painful but you only need 5 to 10 minutes to reap the benefits.

To foam roll properly, you should apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle area using the roller and your bodyweight.  You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second.  When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible.  Though, if an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure to the general area and gradually work to loosen the area – it’s not a pain tolerance competition.   Never roll a bone or joint.  There are tons of ways to foam roll effectively but the top 3 areas people need to focus on are the calves, glutes and quadriceps muscles.  This is because these are the areas that become the tightest from postural issues, walking/running a lot, sitting at a desk job and not stretching on a regular basis. 

Calves

1.       Begin by resting your lower leg (think Achilles tendon) on the foam roller. Your toes should be pointing upward throughout the movement. If you need more pressure, cross your non-working leg over your other leg.

2.       Lift your hips off the ground and slowly roll the entire calf muscle from bottom to the top, which should end up just below your knee. When you hit an area where you feel a “knot,” stop and apply pressure to this area – then continue on.

TIP: You should also hit the inner and outside areas of your calves by turning the leg in and out. For most people, the inside area of the calf is the tightest.

Glutes

1.       To begin, sit with one leg crossed over other while sitting on top of the foam roller. You should almost be sitting directly on top of the foam roller with the roller at the top of your glute muscle towards your lower back. Lean slightly towards the leg you’re working.

2.       Roll your way down. The entire movement is not more than a few inches, so be careful not to “fall off”.

Quadriceps

1.       Lie face down with the foam roller up near your hips. You can either do one leg at a time or two. I like doing two at a time.

2.       Work the roller down to just above the knees.