Foam rolling has been a great form of self-exercise helping in quick recovery from prolonged intense workouts. The 18-36 inch long cylindrical devices made of foam are used to relax stiff and sore muscles by facilitating myofascial release. Fascia, the thin viscoelastic tissue wrapping the muscles often becomes tight and stiff owing to hard workouts, bad posture, erratic movements or emotional and physical stress. As a result, our movements get restricted and we experience pain in different regions of the body.
Foam roller comes as a tool for passive tensile treatment providing quick relief almost similar to that experienced after getting a therapeutic massage from a therapist. If you can learn how to use a foam roller effectively through regular practice of relaxation and deep exhalations, you may be spared from regular visits to a therapist. It is important you pick the best foam roller exercises to get back the desired strength and flexibility.
Selecting a foam roller:
- A smaller foam roller of 18-24 inches long would be ideal for a beginner. It covers most parts of the body and is portable too.
- Larger size rollers give better coverage of body parts.
- Choose a soft foam roller. A hard foam roller will give more pressure and may cause pain.
10 best foam roller exercises for you to try out:
While trying the best foam roller exercises, you need to maintain right postures. Consulting a therapist initially would be a smart idea. He would guide you properly alerting about mistakes to avoid. The following exercises with a foam roll will help in addressing a variety of conditions.
Let us start with simpler ones that would hardly take 10-15 minutes. You can do pre-workout or include them in your post-workout calming session.
1. Upper back (Thoracic Spine):
This is a very common foam roller exercise. Position the roller beneath your shoulder and place your back on the broad side of it. Bend your knees with your feet positioned flat on the ground. Place your hands under your head and lift your butt. Tighten your core muscles and move the roller slowly forward and backward for 20-30 seconds so that it touches the middle of your back and comes back to the shoulder. Avoid tilting your head.
This is one of the best foam roller exercises that relax your calf muscles and enhances ankle mobility. Sit on the ground with your legs straight. Your hands should be on the ground behind your body for support. Place the roller beneath the calf muscles. Lift your butt putting pressure on your hands and move the roller up and down all throughout the legs up to the ankle.
3. Lower back roll:
Low back pain is incredibly common and this roll can provide instant relief. Sit on the floor placing the foam beneath the lower back. Rest your hands behind your body for balance. Squeeze your abs and gently roll the roller towards the upper back and again backward.
Position yourself in the forward bend position with your hands dropping on the floor in front of your shoulders. Place the broad end of the roller below your shin. Your knees should be slightly in the upper position and heels pointed outwards. Move your body forward and backward gently allowing the roller to move from your ankles to the knees.
5. Hamstrings and glutes:
Another simple roll to loosen your hamstring and gluteal muscles. Sit with your legs straightened. Place the roll directly beneath the thighs. Place your hands behind the shoulder with palms touching the ground to give you support. Lift your buttocks and initiate up and down rolling with your hands. The roller should move from the bottom of the glutes to beneath the knees.
6. Serratus Extension:
This is one of the best foam roller exercises for athletes. You need to lie down in prone position with the roller placed below the collarbones. The arms support your weight. Push yourself with your toes forward sliding over the roller till it reaches the third-rib position of your chest. In this position, push the hips to the ground and lift your torso supported by hands to achieve an extension.
7. Butt Roll:
Remember your butts constitute the largest muscle group of your body and have many fascial layers. It is not easy to activate those muscles through simple exercises. Sit on the foam roller in a cross-legged position bending your knees. Your right leg should cross over the left knee. Your hands support your body with palms resting on the floor. Bend towards the right hip and slowly roll your butt over the roller.
8. Outer thighs:
It is a bit complex but one of the best foam roller exercises to release the tightness of thighs especially in case of women. Lie down on one side with the foam roller placed under your right hip. Place your right hand on the floor and raise your body with its support. Roll the foam slowly towards your knee remaining angled in the same position. You will have to use the other leg and arm for balancing. Repeat the procedure with the other side.
9. Quadriceps Roll:
If you learn how to use the foam roller, this roll would not be tough for you. Lie down on the floor with face-down. Place the roller beneath one leg which is to be treated. Lift yourself up supported by hands resting on the floor and shift your weight to that leg rested on the foam. Roll the foam from above the knee towards the hip. Repeat the procedure on the other side too.
10. Groin roll:
This may seem to be a little tough but is one of the best foam roller exercises to release your groin muscles. Lie down with your face down and place one leg on the top of the roller positioning it in the inner thighs. Put weight on that leg on the roller up to your tolerance limit. Roll over gently between the hip and the knee relaxing the inner thigh muscles at the same time. Repeat the procedure with the other leg.
Mistakes to avoid in foam rolling:
- Do not roll fast.
- Avoid rolling over bone joints.
- Do not hold your breath while rolling but breathe properly for the muscles to relax.
- Do not perform rolling frequently if the muscle is sore. Give a gap of 24-48 hours.
- Do not forget to drink enough water to flush out lactic acid released during rolling.