Friday, September 27, 2013

Foam Rolling Basics

Foam rolling. Love it or hate it, it's good for you!

You may have seen some of these cylindrical things lying around your gym and wondered what they were. Maybe you've seen someone using one, maybe you saw someone using one and they were almost in tears and it gave you pause. That was my first experience with a foam roller. I saw a huge muscular dude using one and he looked like he was cutting onions, scared me away from them for a few months.

Eventually, I got curious enough to try it myself and got hooked. I now have two of my own.

Foam rolling can be a bit much during the act, but once you're through...your muscles feel all jelly-like and loosey-goosey, just like you got a massage! Those are very technical terms, I know. But if you're a foam rolling fanatic, you know where I'm coming from. :)

What's the idea behind foam rolling? The main gist is that you're causing "myofascial release" by putting weight on a particular tissue. Mayo Clinic explains it better than I can:
"The technique focuses on pain believed to arise from myofascial tissues — the tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles."
Rolling helps promote muscle recovery after exercise by promoting blood flow to the area being rolled. Blood flow = faster repair of the micro-tears you put in your muscle by stressing it (i.e. working out). Plus... it's feels really really really good. I keep a foam roller at home, one in my office, and I use the rollers at my gym to warm up and cool down after a workout.

Before you get started...

Ladies, you want to put your hair up. I'm not talking a ponytail. I'm talking those fabulous "yes, I just piled all of my hair on top of my head and I know it looks amazing" bun piles. I've rolled on top of my hair more times than I can count and it's very annoying... and it hurts.

Everyone, you want to tuck in your shirt. Same reason as above.

I put this clip up on IG showing some the different ways you can roll.

Please don't be scared of the wincing faces I made! I did a heck of a leg/butt workout yesterday and my lower back half is going through some things as a result. I may have to just aim at my drivers seat and fall to get in the car. :) I kid, it's not that bad. But foam rolling your bottom the day after 115lb glute bridges is an experience.

SO, we'll proceed left to right, top to bottom. Just like reading a book.

Back: start with the foam roller under your shoulders, perpendicular to your spine, hands clasped behind your head, you'll balance your weight between the roller and your feet with your knees bent. Bend and straighten your legs to move your body over the roller and run it along the entirety of your back. You'll want to stop once you get to that knobby "joint" between your back and neck. I normally roll my back for 2-3 min

Glutes: sit on the roller with one leg bent, ankle of the bent leg on the knee of your "straight" leg (base leg). Bend and straighten that base leg to move your glute over the roller. You'll want to rock from side to side a little bit to hit all parts of your glutes. Repeat on the other side. This one is intense for me mostly because of what I did yesterday. :) Depending on how sore these are, I'll roll each one for 3-4 min.

Quads: lie face first on the roller with the roller just below your pubic bone, keep the roller perpendicular to your spine, use your hands to pull your body forward and push back, you should be rolling from where your legs meet your trunk to just above the knee. Rock from side to side to get the entire muscle. My quads normally aren't too tight, so I'll only roll these about 1 min each.

Hamstrings: sit with the roller under where your leg meets your bottom and keep your feet off the ground, use your hands as a base to pull you back and push yourself forward, roll from where your leg meets your bottom to just above your knee. My hamstrings are extremely tight, so I'll roll each of these 3-4 min.

Shins: kneel on the roller with the roller just underneath your kneecaps, use your hands to pull yourself forward and push yourself back, you should be rolling from under the knee to above the ankle. This has been a huge help since I started training for my 6k, go figure I learned this one from a runner friend! I'll roll my shins for about 1-2 min.

Calves: Start with the roller just below your knee, use your hands to lift your butt off the ground, push yourself forward and pull yourself back, you should roll from under the knee to just above the ankle. If both legs on the roller isn't intense enough for you, you can cross one leg over the other at the ankle and get just one calf at a time. Ladies, this is totally amazing if you wear high heels, you'll be surprised at the amount of tightness/knots in your calves! I'll roll each calf for 1-2 min, longer if I can stand it.

While you're foam rolling, if you come to a spot where everything feels particularly tight (almost to the point of being solid), stay on that spot for 30 seconds. That pause will help undo that knot.

Foam rollers start as low as $20-30 and go up from there. I have a red foam roller at home that I picked up from a sporting goods store for about $35 (if I remember correctly) and I got a Grid roller off Amazon for $25. I way prefer my Grid to the red one. Shop around for different types of foam rollers!

That knobby thing in the middle is called a "rumble roller".


Those Grid rollers are my favorite. They don't have as much give because of that solid pipe in the middle. The more traditional foam roller, like my read one, is just a tube of foam and has a lot of give. There are some more "solid" foam ones like the SPRI rollers, like the black one in the top pic of the post, that don't have much give and are super lightweight.

There you have it, foam rolling basics. Let me know in the comments if you're a foam roller, which one you use, and what your favorite foam roller move is!

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