Whether you’re into walking, running or cycling, there are plenty of supplementary exercises and extra things you can do to improve athletic performance. There are few, however, that can beat a regular foam-rolling routine. A whole lot of anecdotal evidence from athletes has long suggested this, but recent research proves that foam rolling can have a positive effect on performance.
A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise had 20 men split into 2 groups. One did a tough squat regimen followed by a foam-rolling routine to target the muscles used in the squat exercises, and the other group did only the squat routine.
After 5 sessions of these protocols, researchers discovered that the group that used foam rollers after the squat session experienced reduced muscle soreness, increased range of motion in the quads and improved vertical leap performance. This study demonstrates the positive effect that foam rolling can have on athletic performance. What’s more, it can also help fend off potential injuries.
Foam rolling keeps various knots at a minimum, and encourages blood flow to problem areas.
The Low Down on Foam Rolling
There are a wide variety of types of foam rollers on the market today. Most are around 6 inches in diameter, and they come in various lengths and densities. Which ever one you chose, protocol is the same. It’s all about targeting the muscles you use most during any given activity.
Be sure to avoid rolling over any bones or joints; this is strictly a soft tissue exercise. Also, be careful to distinguish between soreness after a workout and an impending injury. In terms of frequency use the foam roller at least once a day if you’re relatively active. A foam-rolling session shouldn’t take much longer than 10 minutes. While it can hurt so good, try to relax and don’t rush through the routine. Taking the time to slowly roll out those knots and restore blood flow to the tissues requires some patience, but it’s well worth the effort.
5 Areas to Roll
1. Calves. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you; place the foam roller under one calf, with the other leg crossed over the top of the leg touching the foam roller. With both hands on the ground, raise your backside off the ground and try to isolate the middle, inside and outside of the calves by slowly rolling over your lower leg. Repeat 3–5 times and switch legs
2. Hamstrings. The hamstrings are one of the most injury-prone muscles for athletes of every kind, so it’s important to keep them healthy. Sitting on the floor again, bring the roller up under your hamstring. Roll 2–3 times along the inside, middle and outside of this muscle in the same way you did with the calves.
3. Quadriceps. This exercise requires you to lie on your stomach, putting both quads on top the roller at the same time. Roll this muscle 6–8 times.
4. IT Band. The IT Band runs from the side of your knee up to your hip along the outside of your thigh. This is often a painful area to roll, so really use your arms to prop yourself up in order to take some weight off while rolling up and down. Lie on your side, put the roller just below your hip, and roll down to above your knee. Repeat this 6–8 times.
5. Lower Back. This is a great exercise for anyone suffering from lower-back soreness. Lie down, place the foam roller just above your sacrum, and slowly work the roller up the back, trying to get the muscles on each side of the spine.