If you have never used one, a foam roller may look pretty ineffective. In reality, this simple piece of equipment, when used correctly, benefits your musculoskeletal system and helps to speed up your recovery after a workout. The foam roller helps to increase blood flow to targeted areas, improve mobility and prevent injury.
Note: For safety, it is important to focus on your muscles, being sure to avoid rolling over your joints and/or ligaments to prevent injury. For example, when using the roller for your thighs, start rolling above your knees and finish before reaching your hips.
Here are our top five, simple foam roller exercises.
Position: Sit on the floor and place the foam roller underneath your calves. Place your hands on the floor next to your hips or slightly behind your hips (whichever is comfortable for you) and lift yourself off the floor.
Technique: Start rolling slowly up and down your calves, below the back of your knees to just above your ankle.
Tips: To increase intensity, focus on one leg at a time by positioning one foot on the floor and rolling the other. When you feel a "knot", focus on that location for 20-30 seconds.
Position: Begin in a prone position, lying face down with the foam roller positioned directly underneath your thighs. Place your forearms flat on the floor with palms down. Your weight should be distributed to your forearms and quads.
Technique: Once positioned, use your arms to move your body. Slowly move up and down your quads starting below your pelvis. Be sure to stop rolling just above your knees to avoid any injury to joints and ligaments.
Tips: If you want to increase the intensity, roll at one leg at the time. You can also position one leg over the working leg to increase pressure in the quad.
Position: Start lying on one side with the foam roller placed directly underneath your hip. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, keeping your body off the floor. Place the supporting leg with knee bent and foot flat on the floor, just in front of your knee of the working leg. This will allow you to control your movement.
Technique: Using your arms and bent leg to control the movement, roll back and forth over the foam roller from just below your hips to above your knee. Switch sides and repeat for 20-30 seconds.
Tips: If you want to increase tension, simply stack your supporting leg over the working leg to distribute more weight to the working leg.
GLUTES AND HAMSTRINGS
Position: Sit on the floor and place the foam roller underneath your hamstrings (back of your thighs). Position your arms on the floor by your sides or slightly behind. Use your arms to lift your glutes off the ground.
Technique: Once positioned onto the foam roller, keep your legs extended and off the floor. Start rolling above your knee to your glutes. Use your arms to control your body, rolling back and forth.
Tips: You can target your glutes directly by focusing on this area. Limit the range of your rolling to the glutes, stopping before the hamstrings.
Position: Lie on the floor with your knees bent, similar to a sit-up position. Place the foam roller across your back just underneath your shoulder blades. Once position, lift your glutes off the floor and position your arms across your chest or with your hand behind your head.
Technique: Roll back and forth from your mid-back to the top of your shoulder blades.
Tips: To avoid injury, it is important to avoid neck flexion (tilting your head forward, bringing your chin towards your chest) which puts stress on your spine. Keep your neck in a neutral position throughout the exercise.