Foam rollers are excellent, inexpensive tools that can be used both for a warm up and recovery tool. Most gyms have a few of them available in the stretching area, but if you are an at-home exerciser you may want to consider investing in one of your own (they usually run between $7-20). (Here’s a link to the ones we use here).
Studies have shown that foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release) can actually help reduce stiffness, pain and improve your range of motion (aka performance) during your workout. Think of it like this – when you first grab a pair of jeans out of the dryer and put them on, they are super stiff and hard to move in, so you do your squatting ritual to help ‘break them in’ and fit comfortably again, right? Utilizing a foam roller can help loosen up your stiff, sore muscles again so you can move comfortably and efficiently. Try rolling as often as you like — before or after a workout, and/or on your recovery day.
Here are a few of the recommended top spots to roll out:
Spot #1: Lats
Lying with body stacked on one side, position foam roller under armpit. Slowly roll up and down, forward and back, holding pressure on tight spots for 30-90 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
Spot #2: Calves
Sit with legs extended, one leg crossed over the other with the bottom leg resting on the roller with hands positioned behind hips. Slowly lift hips off the floor and begin rolling up the leg – traveling from the bottom of the calf muscle to just below the back of the knee. Holding pressure on tight spots for 30-90 seconds; repeat on opposite leg.
Spot #3: Glutes/Piriformis
Sit on top of roller with one leg crossed over the other, knee open to side and hands on the floor behind roller for balance. Lean slightly into the hip of the leg that is crossed on top and roll forward and back and side-to-side, maintaining pressure on tight spots for 30-90 seconds; repeat on opposite leg (this can help relieve the muscular tension that can make the IT band feel tight).
Spot #4: Quadriceps
Lying facedown on top of the roller, positioning it just above the knees. Prop body up on bent elbows and slowly move forward, rolling up thighs to just below hip bones. Try changing the position of the legs (turn toes in or out) to hit different areas of the quadriceps muscles, maintaining pressure on tight spots for 30-90 seconds.
Spot #5: Thoracic Spine
Lying face up, position roller underneath upper back with hands crossed over chest knees bent, hip width, with feet flat. Use legs to gently roll from upper to mid back, maintaining pressure on tight spots for 30-90 seconds. Note: those with back pain or spinal issues may want to avoid this or proceed with extra caution.
Bonus Relaxation Spot: Neck
Finish up the session with a gentle release of the muscles in the neck. Lying on the roller (place your head on it like a pillow), gently move your head back and forth (as if shaking your head no in slow motion).