The foam roll is used in conjunction with stretching to increase soft tissue extensibility.
Self myofascial release, or SMR, is the term used when using the foam roll. The myofascial system is a web of connective tissue between muscle and bone located throughout the body. Any injury, inflammation, stress or trauma can cause restrictions in movements and form adhesions, and knots that can become uncomfortable. When using the foam roll, the goal is to release these adhesions and restore normal movement all over.
Using a foam roll can fell great on the muscles, or it can be uncomfortable, which is ok. Here are some tips for use and some illustrations to follow so you can start to incorporate a foam roll into your fitness program.
Tips for Use
• Roll slowly, 5-6 times over the entire muscle.
• If you hit a tender spot in the muscle, apply light pressure, and continue to slowly roll that spot a few more times.
• You can change the amount of pressure applied by adjusting your body and adding or taking away support for each muscle you role.
• Roll after your workout when muscles are warm and pliable.
Sit on the floor, legs straight and the foam roll under your knees. Cross 1 leg over the other, and with your hands behind you, raise your bottom off the floor slightly. Roll your hips forward until the roll has covered the entire hamstring from knee to buttocks. Repeat by crossing the other leg over top and roll again.
IT Band SMR
Lay on your side with the foam roller placed under your outer thigh, just below your hip joint. Your upper body should be raised on your forearm, using your other hand for stabilization. Slowly roll your outer thigh from knee to hip over the foam roller to locate the tender area. Once you have found it, keep the roller positioned under that spot, and roll a few more times until the tenderness has decreased. The repeat on the other leg.
Calf (gastroc/soleus) SMR
While sitting on the floor, legs straight and toes pointed up, place the roll under the back of your knees. Cross 1 leg over the other, place your hands behind you and lift your bottom off the ground slightly. Slowly roll from your knees and across the calf . If a tender spot is reached, roll a few more times until tenderness is decreased. Repeat by crossing the other leg and roll again.
Upper Back (rhomboids, upper trapezius)
Sit on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat. The roll should be behind your hips. Lay back on top of the roll, and position it at your midback, then lift your bottom off the ground slightly and roll to your shoulders slowly. Use your body weight to apply desired pressure and roll any tender spots until tenderness has decreased.
While sitting on the foam roll, adjust the roll so it lies perpendicular to your body. Place your hands behind you and cross your right leg over your left knee. Turn hips slightly toward the right so the pressure is on your right Gluteus and roll your hip until the tender spot is found, then roll a few more times with desired pressure until tenderness subsides. Repeat on other side by crossing left leg over the right and lean toward the left hip.
These are just a few examples of some ways you can use a foam roll in your fitness program. The great thing is that some of these muscles are difficult to stretch with conventional stretching. The foam roll allows that versatility and will help you increase your overall flexibility, decrease muscle soreness and improve performance.