Looking for faster recovery and better performance in a workout? Enhance your workout in five minutes with Foam Rolling.

A Little About Muscle Fibers

If you could look at your own muscle fibers they would somewhat resemble the fibers of a paintbrush, all in-line and striating in a similar direction. Just like the bristles of a paintbrush can become sticky and tangled, so can your muscle fibers! We call these “knots”, however, the technical term would be myofascial adhesions. These can develop through stress, training, overuse, underuse, movement imbalances and injuries. Knots inhibit you from using all of the muscle fibers because they are stuck together and become tighter. The fibers around it then have to compensate and reap all the benefits of their work. This creates imbalances and the knotted muscle fibers remain poor while the rest are coming home richer. They are points of constant tension and addressing them can have positive effects on your workouts while ignoring them can lead to further dysfunction and may perpetuate and/or cause injury.
 
In recent studies, foam rolling was proven to improve range of motion without affecting force or power. This means that you can AND SHOULD foam roll PRIOR to your exercise to increase your range of motion without hindering performance. In fact, performance may improve as your ability to move will be enhanced. Myofascial Release is different than static stretching and any stretching should be done AFTER your workout. The benefits are similar but the mechanisms and side-effects are different. Here’s why:
 
As much as 30% of the muscle mass is connective tissue fascia. This tissue allows for three functions: to allow the muscle to slide and change in length, provides a framework for all the fibers, nerves, and blood vessels, and distributes external or internal forces evenly throughout the entire muscle body.
 
All of this fascia is responsible for as much as 41% of total resistance to movement. In comparison, the joint capsule, tendon, and skin account for 47%, 10%, and 2% of total resistance of movement. You do not want to stretch the skin or tendons and you do not want to hyper mobilize the joint capsule. Consequently, a stretching program should be directed primarily toward elongating the fascia but not the ligaments, because stretching these structures may result in destabilization of the joint (Science of Flexibility, pg 49)

Tip From the Trainer

"Let's forget range of motion, and let's first get in motion!" - Alex Day

Foam Rolling Exercises

Mid-upper Back
  • Lean back against the roller, positioning it beneath your shoulder blades.
  • Raise your hips slightly and maneuver your body up and down to find sensitive areas.
  • Keep the roller between you shoulder-blade region. Avoid the neck and lower back, where there is little support.
  • Take slow, deep breaths.
 
Calves
  • In a seated position, support your body with your hands behind you to prop yourself up.
  • Place one leg on the roller starting at the lower calf (above the Achilles).
  • Roll your calf by moving your body slowly toward the roller.
  • Search for sensitive areas along the calf.
  • Turn the leg inward and outward to explore more areas.
 
Inner Thigh (Adductors)
  • Begin in a face-down position and place the roller parallel to your body.
  • Work your way slowly to the upper groin area until you identify the most sensitive area.
 
Lats (Latisimus Dorsi)
  • Rest the roller at a slight angle toward the back side of your armpit.
  • Rock your body forward and backward and up and down to search for sensitive areas.
 
Gluteus Maximus/Piriformis
  • For the glutes (Figure A), rest your weight your left elbow with the roller above the hipbone. Find the sensitive area and switch sides and compare.
  • For the piriformis (Figure B), which is often a sensitive area, sit on the roller and support your body with your left hand on the floor. Cross your left ankle onto the right knee and search for sensitive area. Switch sides and compare.
  • Use contact points on the floor to control the amount of pressure.
Outer Thigh (IT Band and Lateral Quadriceps) 
  • The outer thigh is highly sensitive. Use caution and ease in.
  • From a side-plank position, place your right elbow on the floor and your left hand and left foot on the floor in front of your body. (Note: These are your main contact points to control the amount of weight you rest on the roller.)
  • Use contact points on the floor to control the amount of pressure.
  • Start above the outside of the knee and slowly maneuver your body over the roller toward your hip.
Tops of the Legs (Quads)
  • In a plank position place the foam roller underneath the tops of the legs
  • Roll back and forth from just above the knee up to the groin
  • To make it more intense cross the ankles and focus on the bottom leg
Bottom of the Legs (Hamstrings)
  • The foam roller should be underneath your legs and you should lift your hips off the ground with your hands placed behind you for stability
  • Roll back and forth from the knee up to the glutes
  • To make it more intense cross the ankles and focus on the bottom leg