Its no secret I am a big fan of foam rolling. I only really discovered the magic of foam rolling mid last year... but it hasn't taken me long to feel the benefits and I can certainly feel a difference when I don't do it! Foam rolling improves circulation, range of motion and flexibility which gets the body ready for a workout. It can also be used for recovery, helping to reduce stiffness and pain.
'Myofascial release' is the process of relieving tension, a form of self massage that you can do at home. The idea is to relax as much as possible, focusing on your breath.
You can pick up pretty reasonably priced foam rollers these days from places like Kmart and The Warehouse. As with any exercise or stretch it is important to maintain good form throughout and be aware of any unusual discomfort. Always stop immediately if experiencing pain, or seek further advice if unsure on technique.
Foam rolling the upper back - rolling from the mid back to the shoulders, slow sweeping movement up and down. You may like to hold in tight spots for 20 seconds.
It's really important to maintain good form, keep your abs engaged so your back doesn't sink down 👍
Rolling the lower back is not recommended.
- Don't roll an injured area (unless advised by a medical professional)
- to make foam rolling most effective, stretch afterwards. A good one for the back is the cat and cow stretch (can be found here in my instagram video).
Foam rolling the glutes -
rolling back and forth leaning onto one side. You may like to hold on tight spots for 20-30 seconds.
To give a little more pressure I have crossed my ankle over my knee (working the underneath legs glute).
- A good stretch for the glutes is 'ankle over the knee' glute stretch, lying on your back. Cross one foot over the opposite knee, reach with your hands for the thigh of the leg on the ground and pull it towards you - feeling a stretch in the opposite hip and glutes. Gently try and push out the knee of the top leg. It's important to keep your head and shoulders relaxed to the floor, if you can't quite reach the ground you could place a yoga block or something soft under your head to support it, or just reach for the knee instead of the thigh.
Foam rolling the hamstrings - slow sweeping movement back and forth, holding on any tight spots for 20 seconds. With this one you may like to do one leg at a time, or you can roll both legs together (like at the end of the video). Turn in and out the legs to get more of the hamstrings.
- An easy stretch for the hamstrings is to lye on your back, both knees bent. Reach one leg into the chest and then extend towards the ceiling (only as high as is comfortable for you, It is more important to keep the leg straight), flex the foot for an additional stretch.
Foam rolling the quads -
slow sweeping movement back and forth from just under the hip bone to the top of the knee, holding any tight spots for 20 seconds. With this one it is important to keep the core engaged (don't sink the hips down).
- A simple standing quad stretch, bend the knee and hold that foot directly behind you, bringing it in to the body as far as feels comfortable for you - feeling the stretch down the front of the thigh.
Foam rolling the calf muscles -
rolling back and forth on one leg. You may like to hold on tight spots for 20-30 seconds.
To give a little more pressure I have crossed my other leg over top, you can also do this with the underneath foot flexed and the top foot holding it back. Or if this is too much pressure, you can foam roll with your supporting leg on the ground, bent knee, foot placed infront of the roller. Turn the leg in and out to get more of the calf muscle. Try this one with a flexed foot and a pointed foot.
- A great calf stretch, sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee and hinge forward at the hips reaching for the toes.
You may have noticed I have not included foam rolling of the IT band (side leg). Overwhelming research suggests that foam rolling could actually make any hip/knee or upper leg discomfort worse. Most of the time IT band pain is due to inflammation - we know that rolling on inflamed areas only adds to the problem.
The IT band is not a muscle, it doesn't contract therefore you can't help it relax. However, foam rolling the areas around the IT band could be beneficial to ensure they are functioning correctly - particularly the glutes, quads and hamstrings.
Don't foam roll over joints.
The lower back and neck are areas to avoid, due to a lack of skeletal and musculature support.
I personally do not recommend foam rolling during pregnancy, especially not the calf muscles.