If you're someone who works out regularly ... I'm sure you understand just how important mobility work can be.
If you don't stay on top of your mobility, things can go south quick. By south, I'm talking about potential injuries, postural imbalances, and much more.
Now, everybody knows that stretching is one of the best ways to stay on top of your mobility practices ... but, not everyone has heard about foam rolling. What a shame! Foam rolling, in conjunction with stretching, can be a huge game-changer.
No, you don't have to be an athlete. Heck, I foam roll and stretch because I sit at a desk all day. Sitting at my desk has given me some hips that desperately need mobility work.
Either way, foam rolling can be great for anyone who wants or needs to work on their hip mobility ... and especially anyone who has bad posture, joint issues, or needs mobility work.
If you're looking to learn more about foam rolling and how it can help you ... stick around! I'm going to cover all the benefits, and 10 easy foam rolling exercises you can start doing right now to reap the rewards!
What Is Foam Rolling, and What's It Good For?
If you're unfamiliar, foam rolling is a technique used for self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR is essentially a self-administered method of releasing muscle tension to improve flexibility. In short, you use the foam roller to "massage" your muscles to break up knots and adhesions.
But working out knots and adhesions isn't the only thing foam rolling does. Using a foam roller can help with things like:
• Reducing soreness and inflammation that can occur when your muscles are repairing
• Muscle recovery and relaxation
• Better movement or mobility and range of motion
• Injury prevention
If you've never seen a foam roller before, they're not hard to spot. Obviously, they are made from a thick foam. They also look like an oversized rolling pin without handles. The cylindrical shape allows you to use it to apply pressure and roll out your muscle tissue.
Don't get me wrong ... foam rolling hurts, but it's one of those "hurts so good" feelings. The way you feel afterwards is well worth the few minutes of discomfort you'll experience ... trust me.
There are also a ton of exercises/stretches that you can do with a foam roller that we'll get into soon.
First, it would pay for you to know exactly how to use a foam roller for yourself!
How to Use a Foam Roller
It seems like foam rolling would be pretty easy and self-explanatory to figure out, right? Just grab a foam roller, lie on top of it and roll back and forth.
Well ... not exactly. I know they don't come with instructions, but that's not quite how they work.
Now, when it comes to using a foam roller, it’s not the most comfortable thing. It's better for you to lean more on the gentle side of things when starting out.
You can always adjust the intensity as you go, once you learn how your body responds. It’s supposed to be a good kind of discomfort though, not a painful one.
Pushing yourself too far won’t speed up the results you are looking for, in fact, you may actually do more harm than good. So, start slow and follow the steps below!
1. Locate the area of your muscle that is tight or sore. This is where you'll be doing the foam rolling.
2. Control your body and slowly lower the area you plan on targeting so it's centered directly above your foam roller. The only part of your body you can't do this with is your lower back. For that, you'll need to modify your approach (we'll talk about this later).
3. Lower your body onto the foam roller until you reach a point of discomfort (but not pain) and hold it there. Hold the pressure there for 30-60 seconds.
4. Now, the pressure alone can provide you with benefits, but you can also roll slowly back and forth. Move slowly along the muscle with the roller, stopping and holding in the areas that need more focus. You can even make slight adjustments in your body position to find what is most effective for you!
5. Remember to breathe! It’s easy to focus on the painful knots and forget to breathe ... I'm guilty of this myself!
This may seem extremely easy, and to an extent, it is. Just remember that it may take a few sessions before you really get into a rhythm and can pin point your "trouble" spots quickly.
Is There a "Best" Time to Foam Roll?
You can use a foam roller whenever you want. I personally like to use mine first thing in the morning. Some people also like foam rolling before bed.
If you workout consistently, you may consider foam rolling before or after your workout instead.
For example, foam rolling before your workout could be a great idea. It can help loosen your muscles and allow for better movement and blood circulation during your workout. This may also help reduce your risk of injury.
On the flip side, foam rolling after your workouts may help reduce soreness and shorten recovery time.
All things considered, there is no solid evidence that supports a "best" time to foam roll. Like most things in life, doing it the right way and doing it consistently will ultimately have the biggest impact on the results you see.
But now that you're well familiar with the art of foam rolling ... it's time to talk about some of the best foam rolling exercises/stretches you can do.
Here are 10 of the easiest and most effective foam roller exercises you can do...
10 Easy and Effective Foam Roller Exercises
I'll cover some exercises that can make a huge impact from head to toe.
Each exercise will be associated with a different body part.
1. Neck Exercise/Stretch
Lay on your back and rest a foam roller directly underneath your neck. Instead of rolling back and forth, slowly inhale and turn your head to one side. Hold this position where you feel the most tightness for 30-60 seconds.
When you finish on one side, exhale and turn your head to repeat this on the other side.
2. Shoulder Exercise
Lay on your side with the foam roller resting under your shoulder. Rest your lower body on the ground to avoid putting too much pressure on your shoulder.
Next, slowly roll up and down over your deltoid muscle. You can also rotate your body forward or backwards to target the various muscles of your shoulder. Do this for 30-60 seconds before switching to your other shoulder.
3. Lat Exercise
Lie on your side with the foam roller under your armpit and extend your arm out to your side (the arm you're lying on). Keep your top leg straight and bend your bottom leg into a position that feels comfortable for you.
Slowly roll from your armpit to your mid-back, covering the full length of your lat. You can also try leaning forward or backward to adjust the amount of pressure you're putting on the muscle. Roll for 30-60 seconds before turning to your other side and repeating these steps with your opposite lat.
4. Upper Back Exercise
Start by lying on your back, placing the foam roller underneath your upper back. Bend your knees and keep your feet planted flat on the floor. You can also bend your arms behind your head to support your neck ... just make sure to keep your neck in a neutral position!
Repeat this for 30-60 seconds.
5. IT Band Exercise
Lay on one side with the foam roller underneath your IT band (the outside of your upper leg/thigh). Rest your bodyweight on your forearm and keep your bottom leg straight. Bend your top leg in front of your bottom leg, placing your foot on the ground for extra support.
Once you're all set up, slowly roll along the foam roller. Move between your knee and glute to cover your IT band. Make sure to stop at tender spots and keep going at it for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.
6. Hamstring Exercise
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath your hamstrings and cross one of your legs over the other. This will help with targeting one hamstring at a time.
From here, plant your palms on the floor behind you, then push through your arms so your weight is resting on the foam roller. Next, slowly roll up and down between the back of your knees and glutes.
Hold the more tender spots and roll for at least 30-60 seconds before uncrossing your legs and switching to the other side.
7. Quad Exercise
Start on the floor with your body in a plank position. Place the foam roller under your quads and use your core and upper body to keep your back straight. Roll back and forth from directly above your knees until your reach your hips. Do this for 30-60 seconds, making sure to stop on any tight areas.
8. Hip Flexor Exercise
Just like the exercise above, you'll start in a plank position. This time though, place the foam roller under one of your hip flexors. These muscles sit on either side of your waist, directly below your hip bones.
Bend your opposite leg and swing it out to the side. Roll up and down on your IT band, then side to side for 30-60 seconds. Once you're done, switch to the opposite side and repeat this.
9. Calf Exercise
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. From here, place the foam roller under your calves.
Cross one leg over the top of the other and lift your body so your weight is resting on the foam roller. Slowly roll the foam roller up and down your calf for 30-60 seconds before crossing your opposite leg over and repeating with your other calf.
10. Glute Exercise
Sit directly on top of the foam roller with your knees pointed toward the ceiling and your feet planted. From here, rotate your body to one side, placing that arm behind you for support. Take the leg on the same side of your body as your planted hand and cross it over your other leg.
Now, all your weight should be on one of your glutes. From here, you can start slowly rolling back and forth for 30-60 seconds before switching sides and doing this with your other glute.
What Else Would You Like to Know?
As you can see, this workout isn't going to be super taxing. After all, you really only need 10-20 minutes to complete it!
Plus, depending on what your goal is, even 5-10 minutes can make a huge difference if you're consistent, although we know there is certainly a lot more to foam rolling than meets the eye.
If you have any question or ever run into any issues, reach out to us and we'll be more than happy to help. We have a full staff of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Nutrition Coaches who are willing to walk you through the perfect game plan to reach whatever goals you may have.