By Sara Shulman
Anyone familiar with foam rolling knows that absolutely amazing feeling when you’ve finally smoothed out the muscle tensioning your thigh or worked through that tight spot in your shoulder, it’s the perfect combination of pain and relief. Actually, this affordable little piece of equipment is way more versatile than helping reduce muscle soreness and aid in recovery. From enhancing your stretching, to helping your work on balance, foam rollers are a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to improve their overall fitness.
Massage your muscles:
Foam rollers are most commonly used as massage tools. The roller can placed under various parts of the body and as you slowly move over the area you are improving circulation which will get your body ready for a workout or, if done post-sweat sesh, can help with muscle recovery.
Start by sitting on the floor with legs extended out in front of you. Place the foam roller under your left calf and your right foot flat on the floor. Use your hands to press your hips off the floor and then slowly roll back and forth on the calf. It’s recommended to roll out each side for at least 30 seconds.
Staying in that same position move the foam roller up your leg hitting your hamstrings and lower back. Lie facing the floor for quadriceps, adductors, and hip flexors.
Enhance your workout:
If you’ve ever included planks, push-ups or sit-ups in your workout routine, consider using a foam roller and challenge your muscles even more. The unstable surface the foam roller provides will engage your core and glutes and make you feel that burn.
Place your hands on the foam roller while holding a plank or performing push-ups, this will force you to engage your core and stay balanced throughout the movement. You can up the challenge even more by placing the foam roller under your toes.
Remix your ab workout by placing the foam roller underneath your spine, length-wise. Your knees should be bent, feet flat on the floor, and your hands tucked behind head. Perform your sit-ups this way, trying to maintain balance on the foam roller. Challenge yourself even more by alternating your legs up and down while your head and shoulders are tightly held in the crunch position.
Increase your stretch:
Once you start stretching with a foam roller, you’ll never go back. This pillow-y piece of equipment makes a great companion for getting into that stretch. Rather than failing to reach your toes, when you try and stretch those hamstrings, use the foam roller. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, place the foam roller underneath your left foot and bend your right leg, keeping it on the floor. Reach for your toes, or the sides of the foam roller, to deepen that stretch. The same thing works for lat stretches. While still on the ground, fold your knees under you and place the foam roller underneath your left wrist and lean with your head on your arm. The right arm can bend behind you. Lean into the roller and let it carry you forward, you’ll really feel it in those lats.
Build up your balance:
Oftentimes, balance exercises are neglected during workouts, but they are really important for our day-to-day lives. Use the curve shape of the foam roller to your advantage to try some balance exercises. In a split lunge stance, place the foam roller underneath the back leg and extend your back leg out straight allowing it to roll down the foam roller. Stand slowly, making sure to maintain balance. Be sure to switch legs.
Another great balance exercise is to use the roller similar to a balancing board. Stand with both legs on the foam roller and come down into a quarter squat, place your arms high and out in front of you, to help counterbalance. Hold for 30 seconds and then come back up.
Relax your feet:
Nothing is better than a foot massage after a long day at work. Let your foam roller help you out with that. Stand with one foot on the roller and the other on the floor. Gently roll the foot on the roller back and forth, side to side, whichever directions feel best. Apply more pressure when you feel a knot or tightness. For the best results, do this barefoot.
Up your yoga game:
Depending on the size of your foam roller, it can be utilized just like a yoga block. Larger foam rollers, may not work for this, but the medium to smaller sizes will help, especially for beginners. You can also use the foam roller under your quads during up-dog to help control your depth. Use it under your knees during corpse pose to relieve back tension. Or, use it to assist your while getting into an arm balance movement like crow. Place your toes on the roller and slowly come into the position.