It's a technique previously only used by athletes and trainers, but now foam rolling has gone mainstream. Technically known as self-myofascial release the technique involves massage to release tightness or hit trigger points. There are a variety of different foam roller exercises aimed at every part of the body, and all kinds of aches and pains. "I would hand these exercises to anyone who walked through the door," said Beth Kohring, DPT, a physical therapist with the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center. "They not only release muscle tightness but also improve joint mobility."
It's easy to get started with foam rolling. Kohring recommends starting with a high density foam roller that is six inches in diameter and 36 inches long. It's the most versatile for all different rolling techniques. You can find one in almost any sporting goods department or store.
Some of the most common foam rolling techniques target the lower body, spine, and upper body restrictions. Below are four that Kohring recommends.
Sidelying IT Band Rolling
- Setup: Begin lying on your side with your hip resting on a foam roll with your upper leg crossed in front of the other and that foot on the ground.
- Movement: Slowly roll the side of your leg up and down the foam roll. DO NOT ROLL PAST YOUR KNEE!
- Tip: Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
Thoracic Extension Mobilization
- Setup: Begin lying with your upper back on a foam roll with hands clasped behind your neck.
- Movement: Let your back relax and head drop toward the floor. Pause briefly and then return to the starting position.
- Tip: Keep your hips on the floor and don't let them rise up.
Static Chest Stretch
- Setup: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and a foam roll positioned vertically along the middle of your back.
- Movement: Lay your arms directly out to your sides. If your arms reach the floor let them rest there. Hold this position for about 30 seconds.
- Tip: Keep your back flat against the foam roll.
- Setup: Begin lying with a foam roll vertically along the middle of your back with knees bent and arms resting on the ground.
- Movement: Spread your arms straight out to your sides, then up overhead, then bring them back down to your sides. Your fingertips should stay in contact with the ground. Repeat this motion.
- Tip: Make sure to not arch your back as you raise your arms overhead.