Stretching is stretching, right? Not according to people who swear by foam rolling. The foam roller is a simple, inexpensive tool that can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your exercise routine. Whether you're looking for a new way to warm up before a workout or you need to stretch tight muscles, reduce soreness and recover quicker, the foam roller can help.
Used as a form of self-myofascial release, foam rollers can help reduce muscle tension while also increasing flexibility. If you're a beginner and have any injuries or chronic conditions (such as fibromyalgia), make sure you get clearance from your doctor before starting a regular foam rolling routine. Take things slowly if you're new to the foam roller because the process can be uncomfortable, especially if muscles are tight. Start with shorter sessions and move gently through each exercise. It shouldn’t feel comfortable when you’re rolling, but also shouldn’t feel painful. Mild discomfort with steady pressure is usually appropriate.
Luckily, you don't need to carve out lots of extra time for foam rolling. Using the foam roller for just 10 minutes, two to three times per week will improve range of motion and reduce post-workout muscle soreness. Get started with these five exercises that are guaranteed to hit your muscles in all the right places.
Sit tall on the floor with legs out in front of you, left ankle crossed over the right and toes pointed up toward the ceiling. Place the foam roller under your right ankle and place palms on the floor at your sides, lifting your backside off the ground. Roll your right calf from ankle to knee three to five times. Repeat with toes pointed inward, then toes pointed out before switching to the other leg.
Sit tall with legs out in front of you and the roller under one knee. Bend the other knee with the foot flat on the floor. Put palms on the floor at your sides and press down to lift your backside off the ground. Slowly roll out along your hamstring until it reaches the bottom of your glute, then roll back in until it reaches your knee. Repeat seven to 10 times, then switch legs.
Lay on the floor with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and the roller behind your upper back. Lightly rest your hands behind your head for support and push with your feet to roll from your neck to the middle of your back. Repeat seven to 10 times.
Lie face down with the roller positioned perpendicular just above the knees on the quads with toes on the ground. With your bodyweight on your forearms, slowly push back until the roller reaches your hips. Then push forward until the roller reaches the starting position just above the knees. Repeat seven to 10 times.
Lie on your side with knees bent and the roller under your right shoulder. The right arm can be extended slightly to help guide the movement properly. Slowly roll up and down along your deltoid muscle using a small range of motion. Repeat seven to 10 times, then switch sides.
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