How To Use A Foam Roller

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

A foam roller is a great way of stretching though what is called a self-myofacial release technique. You can perform these exercises using either 1’ or 3’ roller without needing a partner, or even using your hands. Use foam rollers to prevent, manage, or rehab chronic issues.

The method
You have something called the Golgi Tendon Organ located where your skeletal muscles fibers insert into the tendons and skeletal muscle. This is a proprioceptive sensory receptor that senses tension in your muscle and the rate at which it changes. It responds to prolonged or heightened tension by causing your muscle spindles, to respond to the change in length of your muscle.

Foam roller technique

  • Feel with your fingers to find a tender or tight spot in the muscle that you are working. Place the roller directly beneath that muscle and keep it there for the duration of your stretch exercise. It is best to wait until the pain releases up to 75%, so you may be holding that position for quite some time.
  • Repeat this throughout all sensitive areas for that given stretch.
  • Once the area is free of pain, begin rolling the foam over the entire area to keep it relaxed.
  • The roller works well for workout warm-ups as well as post-workout recovery.
  • Create your own variations of each exercise to fit your specific recovery needs.

Foam roller exercises
Iliotibial tract (IT band)
Lie sideways in the foam roller with the roller positioned just below your hip. Your bottom leg should be slightly elevated off the floor, and your ears aligned with your shoulders. Roll from below your hip joint down to the knee.

Piriformis
Begin is a seated position on the foam roller. Cross your right leg over your left, resting your ankle just above your knee. Roll onto your posterior hip. To intensify the stretch, pull your right knee toward your shoulder with your left hand. Repeat on left side.

Hamstring
Place the roller under your hamstrings with your hips unsupported, but keeping upright by supporting your torso with your hands. Cross your feet and elevated them off the ground. Roll the foam from your knee to your posterior hip, keeping your quads tights.

Quadriceps
Lie facing the floor with the foam position under the quadriceps right below your pelvis. Draw in your abdominals and tighten your glutes. Roll from your pelvis to your knee.

Latissimus
Lie on your side with the foam roller under your right arm. Cross your left arm over your body, resting your hand on the floor. Bend your left leg, and keep your right leg straight. Your right arm should be outstretched with your thumb facing the ceiling. During this technique, movement is minimal.

Balance training
You can practice balance-training techniques with all 4 variations of the foam roller. Start with the half rollers, placing the flat side on the ground. Once you master your technique with the half roller, you can progress to the round foam rollers.

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