Your body’s tight, stiff, and a mess? Here’s how to take care of those rough spots.
Foam rolling exercises are a popular recovery method to help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and improve mobility. Because there are areas on the body which get tight and painful and can hinder exercise performance.
Foam rolling is either better than sliced bread or a complete waste of time depending on whose opinion you listen too. But there is plenty of middle ground. You should think of foam rolling as a poor man’s massage. Having a massage therapist massage you is more effective, but foam rolling is cheaper and more accessible.
Here we will go into five must-do foam rolling exercises and the benefits to each muscle group. Let’s dive in.
THE BENEFITS OF FOAM ROLLING EXERCISES
Yes, the foam roller doesn’t tickle, but the benefits below are worth it.
- Reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
In a study published by the Journal of Athletic Training, men who foam rolled their legs after a workout reported a decrease in their post-workout tenderness. They used a roller for 20 mins. after their workout, and again 24 and 48 hours later.
- Improves joint range of motion
When reducing muscle adhesions and working on trigger points in the fascia, you’ll improve the muscles’ elasticity and help them return to their ideal length. This improves your joint range of motion allowing you to strengthen all parts of the movement for better strength and hypertrophy.
- Helps with muscular pain and tension
The pressure from rolling helps increase blood flow and elevate heat in the parts the foam roller is rolling, and there have been studies done that shows that this can help ease muscular pain and tension. But be careful not to roll into pain or put your body in position to make pain worse. This will cause all the benefits of foam rolling to disappear.
Upper Back Foam Roll
Before you bench, deadlift, or squat, you need to foam roll your upper back. This will help to relieve pain and stiffness and improve shoulder mobility due to bringing blood flow to this important area. If you’re going from the desk to the gym, massaging this area after a time of immobility will improve posture and shoulder movement.
Muscles massaged: Rhomboids, upper and middle traps
How it helps: This improves shoulder mobility before training to get your body ready to roll. Plus, it’s a great filler exercise when you’re doing any exercise that involves the upper back.
How and when to do it: With the foam roll horizontally on your upper back, raise your arms in a V shape. Prop your hips slightly off the ground and push with your feet to move the roller over your upper back. Then give yourself a hug by putting each hand on the opposite shoulder and repeat the same process. Doing 10 rolls of each as part of your warmup and as a mobility/recovery drill between upper-body exercises works well.
Calf Foam Roll
Make no mistake, foam-rolling the calf area doesn’t tickle because they often get tight and sore. But this tightness and soreness will affect your ankle mobility, which may lead to problems when it comes to any leg exercise. Better to pay attention to the calf muscles by sucking up the momentary pain for long-term gain.
Muscles massaged: Gastrocnemius and soleus
How it helps: Releases tension in the calf muscles and improves flexibility and range of motion in the ankles. Plus, it brings healing blood flow to help reduce post-training soreness
How and when to do it: Turn the roller horizontally, rolling back and forth over the calf muscle while keeping your toes pointed up. Prop yourself up with your hands with your glutes off the ground while rolling back and forth. Applying light to moderate pressure, doing 10 to 15 rolls on both sides as part of your warmup and cool down.
Hip Flexor Foam Roll
Hip flexor length and mobility play an important role for squatting and deadlifting because the hip flexors are needed for full hip extension. And there is no better way to prepare and improve your hip flexors mobility for training than by foam rolling them. Because foam rolling in this area will improve your lower body training period.
Muscles massaged: Psoas major, psoas minor and quads.
How it helps: It brings blood flow to reduce hip flexor stiffness. This will promote better movement of the hip, leg, knee, and ankle, helping to strengthen all parts of your leg movements.
How and when to do it: Put the end of the roller underneath one hip with your other leg on the ground with the knee bent and elbows on the ground. Roll back and forth over the top of your hip, pushing with your elbows, being careful to not roll over your pelvis. Do 10-15 rolls on each side as part of your warm-up or as a recovery exercise between sets of heavy squats or deadlifts.
Assisted Hamstring/Calf Stretch
Unlike the other drills on this list this is best done after training and not before. Stretching them after a workout will kickstart the recovery process and help the hamstrings and calve return to their resting length sooner. Using the foam roller and a towel ensures a better stretch as you control the intensity by using your ankles and the towel.
Muscles stretched: Hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus biceps femoris), gastrocnemius and soleus.
How it helps: Performing this after a leg training will help improve recovery and maybe reduce soreness. Plus, better hamstring flexibility leads to better knee stability.
How and when to do it: While sitting down with an upright torso, roll the foam roller down underneath the calves. Then straighten the knee and point your toes towards you. Then wrap a towel around your feet and pull the toes towards your body to stretch and lengthen the hamstring and calves. The harder you pull on the towel, the bigger the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.
Lat Foam Roll
The lats are used with almost all shoulder movements, assists with lower back movement and is an accessory muscle for breathing. The many functions of the lats can cause them to get sore and short and this affects your ability to go overhead or engage them for squats and deadlifts. Yes, foam rolling them hurts, but if you can stand the discomfort, this will improve shoulder health and movement.
Muscles massaged: Latissimus dorsi
How it helps: Releasing stiffness and tightness of the lats improves your ability to go overhead and improves standing posture. Plus, you’ll better engage your lats to keep you spine in neutral for heavy squats and deadlifts.
How and when to do it: Lay on your side and place the roller underneath your armpit, near the top of your lats. Extend your arm that’s closest to the ground above your head. Both legs can be straight, or you can bend one at 90 degrees for comfort. Lift yourself up on the roller and roll gently down and up the lats. Do 10 to 15 rolls as part of your warm up or cool down.