We have all seen them stacked in the gym before and people rolling around on the floor with them, you may be thinking ‘what's all the fuss about, are they any good?’.
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
Evidence shows that foam rolling for 30-90 seconds can increase muscle range of motion for a short-term period. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) or self-massage, it can as a result potentially reduce adhesion's in your muscles and connective tissue. Furthermore, foam rolling also increases blood flow to your muscles which allows short term enhanced range of motion.
5 main muscle groups, you should target with a foam roller
Here are your top 5 exercises to perform. These will take you 10-15 minutes total time:
1. Calves (lower legs):
Starting from the bottom up, sitting on your bum place your legs/calves on the foam roller in front of you. Place one foot on top of the other creating downward pressure onto the roller, now move your foot side to side like a windscreen wiper motion. Rather than going up and down the benefit is working side to side on the calves slowly working our way up, this way no part of our calves gets missed, spend 90 seconds each calve.
2. Hip Flexors/Quads (thighs):
Lying face down, place the foam roller on your quads (top of thighs) have one leg off the roller whilst posting on your elbows. You are going to slowly work your way up from just above the knee to the start of the hip, slowing moving up you are going to perform 5 leg curls which are stimulating the muscles in the quad right up to the hip flexors. Perform 5 reps of these curls moving inch by inch until you get to the hips then change sides. This will be uncomfortable at first but will get easier.
3. Glutes (buttocks):
Sitting on the foam roller you are going to place one leg on top of the other knee creating downwards pressure on the glutes. You are going to move side to side and up and down covering the surface area of your glutes, spend 90 seconds each side.
4. Thoracic (Mid Back):
You are going to lie on the foam roller, give yourself a big hug, holding that position you are slowly going to start rolling from the lower back all the way up to the neck slowly. Perform this 4-8 times. Once you've done that, moving onto the middle of the back place your bum on the floor. You are going to extend back arching the middle of your back, flexing and extending on the foam roller, breathing out on the way down and in on the way up. Perform five reps then move up the back an inch then go again perform this until you get up to your neck.
5. The latissimus dorsi (Lats):
You are going to lie side on to the foam roller above the ribs, into the armpits and a few inches below. Reaching above your head you are going to rock side to side and up and down, as a result, this will create tension in the lats allowing blood to flow through, perform this for 90 seconds each side.
In summary, there is some evidence showing that SMR helps increase range of motion in the short term. Therefore it is important to strengthen the muscles to increase range of motion and stability of your joints for the long term. In addition, using a foam roller before a workout is a great way to prepare your muscles for what's ahead.