Foam rolling! If you’ve ever been in a gym or Physio clinic, you may have seen a foam roller lying around! Foam rolling has lots of misconceptions and ideas around it. The main benefit that comes from foam rolling is not lengthening of the muscle, but increased circulation to the muscle through vasodilation. This means that the foam roller rolling back and forth on the muscle is creating heat through friction, which causes the blood vessels to dilate or get bigger (vasodilation). This creates more blood flow through the muscle and allows for the muscle to relax. The other major benefit of foam rolling is the effect it has on your Central Nervous System (CNS), where the pressure from the foam roller stimulates the CNS and tells the body to relax.
Now that we know what foam rolling does, WHEN and HOW should we do it? As for WHEN, you can decide! Lots of research suggests that foam rolling can be helpful before OR after a bout of exercise. Some even show that it can be beneficial without even doing any exercise with it! You can use foam rolling as an addition to your warm up, you can do it as a cool down with your stretches, OR you can do it anytime throughout the day when you have some free time! Just make sure that you are staying on the foam roller for 30 sec-2 mins per body part!
Now, we get to the HOW! Our personal trainer Alex has put together 5 great foam roller exercises that everyone can try as long as you have a foam roller! The foam roller you have at home can be foam, plastic, hard, soft, or anything in between! If you’d like to learn more, please contact @alexbee at 780 395 9170 or 780 244 1095
- QUADS – start in a plank position with your mid-thighs on the foam roller and elbows on the ground as shown. Then, slowly army-crawl with your elbows to roll the foam roller up and down the front of your leg. Don’t roll onto any bones, just on the meaty parts of the muscle. When you find a sore spot, stay on it and try to get it to relax! Repeat for about 2 mins.
- GLUTES – start sitting on the foam roller and lean over to one side (as shown). Follow the same steps as foam rolling the quads, move slowly over the glute muscle from the very bottom by your hamstring or sit bones, all the way up to by the waistband of your pants. Along the way, if you find a trigger point or a sore spot, stop and roll back and forth or hold on that spot. Repeat for 1-2 mins per side.
- T-SPINE EXTENSION – start laying on the ground with the foam roller positioned on your mid-back or just below your shoulder blades. Cup your head/neck with your hands as shown, and support your head so your neck is not straining. Keep your glutes on the floor and slowly lean back over the foam roller. You should feel a stretch through your back and might even feel a “stuck” feeling in the back. Try different levels of your spine by rolling the foam roller up or down your back, place your bum back down on the ground and then lean back again. Repeat for about 2 mins.
- PEC STRETCH – start laying ON the foam roller this time. Your head and bum should be supported by the foam roller. If you have a short foam roller, support your head, neck, and t-spine with the foam roller and then prop up your lower body using pillows, etc. Then place your arms out to the side in line with your shoulders and relax! Your arms may or may not touch the ground depending on your mobility. If having your arms straight out is too much of a stretch or is painful, try bending the elbows to an H shape. Hold this position for about 1-2 mins.
- CALVES – start sitting with the foam roller under your calves. You can place one leg over the other for more pressure (as shown), or you can leave both legs on the foam roller. You can slowly roll the foam roller back and forth just like rolling the quads and glutes. Try to find sore spots and focus on them, hold pressure there, or roll quickly back and forth over the spot. Moving your feet side to side like windshield wipers is also a good alternative to this exercise. For more pressure, you can lift your bum off the ground and use your arms to roll yourself forward/backward.
Images courtesy of simpleset.net