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Foam Rolling Exercises

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Foam rolling exercises may have been unheard of a decade ago. But today, many athletic training rooms and strength improving facilities possess an array of foam rollers of different length and consistencies; speaking volumes of its growing popularity.

Foam rolling exercises soften muscle tissues to 'iron out the kinks' and helps to keep it elastic and pliable. Although most of these exercises target the knee and shin pain, other different kinds of pain are also addressed. The advantage of foam rolling exercises is that they can be done almost anywhere. All you need is a foam roller and a hard surface.

What is a foam roller?

To put it simply, it is a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam but a little denser and larger in diameter than the swimming pool noodles. These days, a number of densities from relatively softer foam are also available. The corollary here is that the denser the athlete, the more dense the roller should be. While a large heavily muscled athlete will do better with a very high density roller, a smaller, younger athlete should begin with a less dense product


Foam roller exercises

For foam roll exercises, you need to roll forth and back for about 30 seconds to a minute. Those who have never done foam exercises before may find it painful at first. But it should become less painful after a few sessions.


Some regular foam rolling exercises

Quads: Cross legs so that most of the weight is on one leg. After rolling on one leg switch to the other. If this is too painful at first, roll on both legs simultaneously.

Hamstrings: Like quads, cross legs so that most of the weight is on one leg. After rolling on one leg switch to the other. If this is too painful at first, roll on both legs simultaneously.

Calves: Cross legs so that most of the weight is on one leg. After rolling on one leg switch to the other.

Glutes: Find a sensitive spot and put as much weight as possible on the ball. After the time desired, move to a new sensitive spot. Switch to the other side and repeat.

Arch: Place the ball under foot and with as much weight as possible move the ball back and forth for about 50 times. Repeat the exercise with the other foot.

Front of shins: Keep as much weight as possible on the roll and not on the hands while rolling back and forth.

Side of shins: Roll by alternately bringing knees to chest and extending legs. Repeat on the other side.

Knee: Lie on the floor and place the ball just above the knee on the inside of leg. Roll it around to find sensitive spot and hold.

Abductor: Lie flat and place the roll under thighs. To roll back and forth, lift up and arms a bit.

Cellulite can be reduced on different parts of the body through foam roller exercises. Foam rollers help to massage areas and break up the interwoven fat fibers. This helps increase the flow of nutrient rich blood to these areas. It also helps to stretch connective tissues and improve circulation. This in turn enables the body expel abnormal fluids and toxins.


Foam roller exercises for legs


Outer thighs: Place the foam roller on the ground and lie sideways on it. Roll out outer thigh which is known as the IT band. This is a muscle which runs from the knee to the hip. The tender mass has to be massaged for a few seconds. A little pain is bound to be experienced in the beginning but it becomes easier by practice.

Hamstring: To perform this foam roller exercise, place hands behind back and then maneuver forwards and backwards. Avoid rolling on sensitive areas of the knee. This exercise will require more balance than others.

Front thighs: This is easier than the other two mentioned above. Place the foam roller in front of body and rest thighs on the roller and use hands to balance. Move back and forth from knee using hands right up to hip. This will help massage and smoothen out all the cellulite on thighs. Beginners can use toes to propel forwards and it is best to use hands so that thighs are massaged properly.

Such foam roller stretches could be performed for about 20 minutes a day and it is enough to get rid of cellulite. However, it is important to perform them regularly, as part of the daily workout schedule.


Foam rolling techniques

Credit goes to the National Academy of Sports Medicine and its President for exposing the sports medicine community to the foam roller. The technique illustrated was simple and self explanatory. It is as simple as getting a foam roller and using your body weight to apply pressure to sore spots.

Foam rollers are used for injury prevention and performance enhancement. It is also a sort of massage therapy. They provide soft tissue work in any setting. But the nuances of the techniques have to be learnt to get the most out of them.


While Clarke, the President of National Academy of Sports Medicine who recommends foam rolling techniques modeled his initial concepts on acupressure, in which the pressure is placed on specific surfaces of the body, athletes are instructed to use the roller to apply pressure to sensitive areas in their muscles called trigger points, knots, or areas of increased muscle density.


From acupressure, it has progressed to self massage and it is usually used to apply longer and more sweeping strokes to the long muscle groups like the calves, adductors, and quadriceps.

Although there is no dictum on how often or how long to roll, the techniques are used both before and after a workout. You can foam roll before a workout to reduce muscle density and promote a better warm up. Post workout rolling helps muscles recover from strenuous exercise.


Some specific foam rolling exercises

Foam rollers are effective on almost any part of her body. Yet it works best on lower extremities as there are not much dense tissues in the upper body. Hamstrings and hip flexors experience most muscle strains.


Protocols for pain relieving

Gluteus max and hip rotators: Here the athlete sits on the roller with a slight tilt and moves from the iliac crest to the hip joint to address the glute max. Ten slow rolls are done in each position.

TFL and Gluteus Medius: The tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius though small in size can cause significant anterior knee pain. Start with the body prone and the edge of the roller placed over the TFL just below the iliac crest.

Adductors: They are probably the most neglected area of the body. There are two methods to alleviate pain in this area. The first is a floor based technique suitable for beginners. Abduct the leg over the roller and place the roller at about a 60 degree angle to the leg. The rolling action begins just above the knee and done in portions. You can start with ten short rolls.

Foam rolling stretches: Foam rolling helps your body relax and stretch in ways often left to therapeutic massages. Some simple rolling techniques are sure to leave you smiling.

Psoas stretch : For tight hip flexors or lower back pain, try this out. Lie perpendicularly on the foam roller. Pull one knee up to the chest with the opposite heel on the ground. Hold for about 30 seconds and switch legs.


Quad release: The quad release stretch helps release tension in those muscles. Lie face down with quads on the roller and hands on the ground. Using hands roll back and forth over the roller to massage the quads.

The IT band stretch: Avid runners know the importance of an IT band. To keep knees healthy and prevent them from tightening too much; roll on the IT band area.


Foam rolling exercises for proper posture

Foam rolling can be done to keep your body in proper alignment, balanced and supported. It helps prevent back pain and allows proper functioning of muscles, joints, lungs and other organs.

Spread a mat or towel on the floor and position the foam roller lengthwise on top of it. Sit on the lower edge of the foam roller with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lie back slowly; supporting the spine and head on the foam rollers. Keep knees bent. Relax shoulder blades and rest arms on the floor on either side of body.


Chest stretches: Take a deep breath and expand the diaphragm. Exhale, flattening the abdomen and pressure back against the foam roller. Stretch the chest muscles as you breathe in and out. Do this a few times every day.

Core strengtheners: Place left arm on the floor next to body and raise right hand over the head. Raise left arm over head and lower right arm to side. Alternate raise and lower the arms slowly repeating about 10 times. Place both arms on side, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Raise one leg slowly off the ground and then lower it. Raise the other leg off the ground and lower it. Alternate lifting and lowering one leg at a time, ten times in succession. Repeat for two to three sets of ten.

Tips and warnings for foam rolling

  • Always select a foam roller that is long enough to support your head and back. If the roller is too short, use a small exercise ball to support head.

  • Avoid holding positions longer than five seconds, if they cause pain.

  • Start slowly and increase exercise time gradually.

  • The basics of foam rolling - do not try to move too fast over an area.

  • Always stay in control of your movements and maintain good posture.


Here is a good starting routine for the foam roller - take a small firm ball, like a tennis ball, and this will help reach smaller and deeper muscles. Make a pass over each group and take deep breaths when a sore spot is found. Do not overdo it. Less is more here.

Let us consider foam roller as a friend. This simple but handy device can reduce muscle soreness, speed recovery, and relieve stress.

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