If a foam roller hasn’t become a regular part of your pre or post-workout routine, or possibly part of your after work stretching from sitting all day it should be!
There are many uses for a foam roller, and the biggest complaint I hear from patients about using one is that they always forget to use them. Easiest fix for this is to place it in a place where you know you will see it every day. For example, keep it front of your TV, so every time you sit down to watch a show, you will see the roller and can’t help but get up off of the couch to roll out any tight or sore muscles.
Of the many uses for a roller, I think my top four most common uses include during your pre-workout warm up, post-workout cool down, assisting in rehabilitation of an injured muscle, and using it as a fulcrum to mobilize joints.
During a pre-workout warm up I will make sure that I first do an activity to lightly increase my heart rate and blood flow to muscles. Then, after doing a dynamic warm up related to my workout I may foam roll muscles I know will be predominantly used during the warm up. The focus should be on stimulating nerve fibers at the meaty belly of muscles to prepare them for activity. For example, if I know I will be doing a lot of squatting movements, I will roll throughout my quadriceps.
For a post-workout cool down, I will do short movements back and forth or side to side over the muscles that feel tired and sore from the workout out. I will be sure not to roll more than 5-10 seconds over each section of the muscle to assure I do not over stimulate an already tired and fatigued muscle. Using the big quadricep as an example again, I will break up the long muscle into about 4-5 sections and spend about 5-10 seconds on each section by rolling up and down lengthwise of the muscle, and then rotate my leg side to side.
Utilizing the roller during rehabilitation of a muscle strain is also a great idea. Using it over the injured muscle during activity phase in of rehabilitation will be beneficial to the muscle for a few reasons. First, it is similar stimulation to working the muscle for pre-workout foam rolling. Secondly, it helps to move healthy inflammation around the muscle to assist in repair. Lastly, after straining a muscle the actual strained muscle or supporting muscles around it may be tight and limit range of motion of the joints they support. So, rolling over these areas will help to relax these tight muscles and increase range of motion of their respective joints.
Lastly, and probably one of my favorite and most recommended uses for the foam roller is to use it as a fulcrum to open up spinal joints. Most of us spend many hours out of our day with our backs flexed over a desk. This can be stressful to our back muscles and spinal joints. At the end of a day, it feels great to lay over a foam roller situated perpendicular to our spine starting at about the lower mid back, keeping the hips on the floor and then extending the spine over the roller down towards the ground. You can hold this position for about 30 seconds, then move the roller up the spine an inch or two and repeat until you reach your upper back near the shoulders. This helps to open up our spine into the reverse position it may have been all day sitting in a chair, and stretch our chest muscles which typically become tight and over contracted from sitting at a desk.
Now you have four simple uses for a foam roller to help celebrate National Foam Rolling Day, and to keep your muscles, joints and spine happy from here on out! The Trigger Point Performance rollers are a great brand because they come in various sizes and never lose their support! Check them out at the Trigger Point website, or stop into Positive Motion to pick one up!