Why use the Foam Roller? The foam roller assists with stretching the muscle fascia, tendons, connective tissue, and scar adhesions. By using your own body weight, you can roll over the foam in order to provide self massage and self myofascial release (SMR). Since you control your weight, you can adjust the amount of pressure applied to determine the depth of stretch. For people with pain, soreness, or decreased flexibility, the foam roller is able to provide muscle mobilization to help decrease the symptoms associated with each.
What are its benefits? Foam rolling helps balance out your muscles, improves joint range of motion, relieve muscle soreness, and decrease joint stress. In addition, it helps provide faster muscle recovery which leads to improved muscle performance. It does so by breaking down the lactic acid buildup following your workout. Make sure to drink water after you foam roll to assist with ridding the body of toxins.
Who should use it? The patients that I typically use the foam roller for are those with knee pain and/or lower extremity tightness. This is common in runners, bodybuilders, athletes, and hikers. However, it is good for anyone to use in their daily workout routine.
Why are there so many different types? There are many kinds of foam rollers, some of which have bumps and grips on them. These are to provide a more targeted trigger point massage which helps isolate the pressure to a smaller area. If you want a general stretch and deep massage, a basic foam roller works just fine. There are also different densities available like soft, medium, and high-density (hard). I recommend the high-density rollers because the soft ones are less effective in providing a full stretch.
When should it be used? The foam roller is excellent to use in conjunction with your post-workout stretching. This is a form of massage so your muscles should be warm. Do not use it before a workout because your muscles are cold and less pliable.
I have provided pictures below of some of the most common stretches you can perform using the foam roller. Where you begin and end the stretch is important and is based on the muscle origin and insertion.
I recommend about 1 minute per muscle group, on each leg of course. If you hit a painful spot, rest on the painful area for 30 seconds before moving on. Ease into it and go slowly. It will get easier the more often you use it.
1) Hip flexors / Quadriceps / Thighs- Lie face down on the foam roller. For this one, make sure to keep your Abs/Core engaged so that your lower back does not arch excessively. Roll from your front hip bones…down to just above your knee caps.
*This stretch can be modified two ways: Turn your toes inward/internally to massage your lateral/outer quadriceps (see below)or turn your toes outward/externally to massage your medial/inner quadriceps. (see below)
2) IT Band / Hip Abductors / Outer Thighs– Lie in sidelying with the foot of your top leg in front. Roll from your hip joint…down to just below your knee.
3) Hamstrings- Sit on top of the foam roller. Roll from our ischial tuberosity (butt bone)…down to just below your knees.
4) Hip Adductors / inner thighs– Place one leg on the foam roller with your toes rotated inward/internally so that your inner thigh receives the massage. Roll all the way down to your knee.
5) Calves- Sit with your calves on top of the foam roller. Roll from above your knee…down to your achilles tendon at your ankle.
*You can also cross your legs in order to hit one leg at a time (see below)
6) Glutes / Hip Extensors- Cross one foot over the opposite knee & roll from the back of your hip… down a few inches. You can pull your knee towards your chest to intensify the stretch.
7) Sides / Lats / Serratus Anterior – Lie on your side with your thumb pointing upward. Roll from your axilla/armpit area…down just a few inches. The movement for this stretch is minimal.
8) Back / Lats / Erector Spinae- Lie on your back (arms can be crossed) and roll out your upper, mid, and lower back. Go slowly with this one. Your back may pop & that is nothing to be worried about.