Foam rollers are sold at every sporting goods store now. Those pesky round foam thingies look a little scary, and maybe you’re not sure what the fuss is all about. “Oh those are just for people with injuries” you think.
Don’t dismiss them so quickly.
Those pesky foam rollers can provide you with a wide array of of tools that can actually revolutionize how you look and feel. They are especially tailored for those of you who have limited time and are looking for quick results. Isn’t that everyone?
The foam roller, ideally the 3 foot long, 6 inch round, high density foam rollers (click here to see one on sale), are the most versatile piece of equipment that you can add to your home workout space. You can do a variety of things, from balancing, to stretching, to strengthening to something called self myofascial release (SMR), all on this one skinny tall foam filled roller.
Today I’m going to give you one amazing stretch, and one (sometimes painful) often needed SMR activity that can both be done on the roller.
First, let’s start with the SMR, since a lot of people are unfamiliar.
The goal of SMR is to roll out the knots and adhesion in your fascia that often inhibit a muscle from working at it’s optimal length and strength. Think of it like having a knot in a rubber band: it makes the band tighter and less effective. The goal of using the roller for SMR is to roll on the adhesion and apply pressure much like you would do in a massage. You can use a ball, or other tools for this process, but the roller tends to be a good device that will hit all the muscles, and do so in a less painful and intrusive manner than a smaller ball might do.
The video below shows an SMR exercise that targets a chronically tight area of the body for most clients. Keeping this part of the leg flexible will help with knee function, hip function, and can also positively impact the lower back.
The technique of foam rolling involves finding a tender spot in your muscle, holding on it for 10 to 30 seconds, then rolling around to find the next tender spot. I will warn you now, this area of the body can be very painful. If it is, that mean you need it! Just take your time easing into the process.
1. Lie on your side with the foam roller under the bottom hip. Use the bottom forearm to prop the upper body up. You can place the top leg in front of the bottom leg on the floor, or stack it on top of the bottom leg for more pressure.
2. Make sure the hips are stacked on top of each other. Now tilt the top hip forward slightly so you are leaning on the front part of the outer hip and top of the thigh.
3. Find a tender spot, hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Continue to roll down the leg until the top of the knee joint without crossing the knee.
4. Repeat on the other side.
The roller also provides your body will a much needed boost if you need to stretch. If you follow my blog, you know that I love stretching for anyone who spends their time hunched over a computer or phone (again, isn’t this everyone?).
This next stretch targets the hip flexors, which can be a chronically tight muscle if you sit for a living. When you are in your chair, your hip flexors are in their shortened position for long periods of time. This stretch lifts your hips in the air which allows you to extend from the hip joint and stretch the hip flexors. A lot of clients love it since they can really relax into this one and allow the hip to open up.
The foam roller really is worth the investment. They are inexpensive and can be stored easily in a corner, and even small enough to be hidden with a simple toss of your winter coat. I promise more roller activities in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!