5 Foam Rolling Exercises to Relieve Sore Muscles
By STEVE BARRETT
Foam rolling is universally embraced by professional athletes and fitness fans who want to experience its almost instant benefits, which include improved posture, performance and flexibility of fascia, a connective tissue present throughout the body.
Most people have "hot spots" (or trigger points) that are located where there is a natural tendency for higher amounts of tension or inflammation.
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Each of these areas should be slowly rolled for one to two minutes (on each side where applicable). The speed that you perform each roll is important -- it needs to be done slowly. Roll each area as often as you can, ideally on a daily basis.
EXERCISE 1: Gastroc Roll
Place the roller at the base of your calf muscle, and put the other leg on top so that it applies downward pressure on your calf. Sit up straight with your hands just behind your hips and lift yourself up.
Shift your body weight so that the roller rolls up toward the back of your knee. Make sure you go slowly to ensure the roller has time to do its job. When you have covered the length of your calf, reverse the process.
EXERCISE 2: IT Band
Sit sideways on your roller and lean forward, bracing your arms. The leg being rolled should be extended straight back. Cross the non-rolling leg over, knee bent and planted on the floor.
This may be the most painful of all the moves, but try to keep the roller moving very slowly so that you get a prolonged period of squeezing against the muscle. When you get close to the bony section of the knee, change direction and repeat.
EXERCISE 3: Piriformis
You can only roll one piriformis at a time. Sit on the roller with your weight only on your right buttock, the left leg slightly bent, arms planted behind you.
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Shift your weight forward until you feel the roller get close to your hipbone. Then shift your weight back until you feel the roller get to the crease where your leg and buttock meet.
EXERCISE 4: Quads and Hip Flexors
Lie over your roller with pressure on the front of your thigh just below your hip. First, roll so that the roller moves up toward your hip until it stops touching muscle and feels like it is only touching your hip/pelvic bone.
Now switch direction (this movement is generated by your arms and chest) so the roller travels slowly down your quadriceps until you are just slightly above your kneecap. Switch direction again and repeat.
EXERCISE 5: Erector Spinae
This long length of muscle and fascia goes all the way from the base of spine up to the back of your skull -- but never exert full body weight on the roller anywhere past shoulder height.
Get in position with your hips still on the floor and your knees bent. Place the roller behind your shoulders (but not against your neck). Cross your arms across your chest. This not only gets them out of the way, but also gets your scapula out of the way for when the roller passes over it.
Lift your hips up then slowly lengthen your legs so that the roller moves down the length of your back until it gets close to your buttocks. If you're very strong, you may get all the way down, but being slow and controlled is more important than the distance at this stage. Roll back in the other direction going slowly and even pausing over any particularly hot spots.
Readers -- Have you ever used a foam roller? Do you do foam-roller exercises as part of your workout routine? Do you find that it helps your performance? Have you done any of the exercises mentioned above? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Steve Barrett is a U.K.-based former national competitor in athletics, rugby and mountain biking. His fitness career spans over 25 years. His work as a lecturer and presenter has taken him to 45 countries, including the United States, Russia and Australia. He is the author of five books published by Bloomsbury.