Foam Rolling, Part 2
by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT
There are multiple ways to use a foam roller to optimize recovery. You can pretty much use a foam roller on almost your entire body, but you need to make sure you're using it correctly. Here we will go over how to use a foam roller correctly and what muscle groups you could and should be rolling out.
Most individuals will just roll back and forth on their sore muscles until they feel a little better or more “loose”. While this may have some minimal benefits, it does not address the problem as to why the muscle is tight or sore. Instead, slowly roll up and down whichever muscle you're rolling out until you find that tender spot, or trigger point. Upon locating this trigger point, stop on that point and maintain pressure on that spot for about 30-60 seconds. There should be a time during this window where the discomfort of holding the pressure on that trigger point lessens, and shortly after that is when you should release the pressure.
The reason for holding pressure on those trigger points as opposed to repeatedly rolling over them is because applying direct pressure will actually allow the muscle to relax. Then upon releasing that pressure, the increased blood flow to the area will help restore normal function. You may find that certain muscles may possess more than one trigger point or that a certain trigger point may need to be addressed more than once during a single rolling session. In some cases, you may need to come at the muscle from different angles with the roller positioned differently.
There may be muscles you'll want to focus on a little more, specifically your lower extremities. Since your lower extremities are always active throughout the day and are comprised of denser tissues, there tends to be more strain in those muscles. In turn, the number of trigger points will also be higher. Your focus should be on the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors; these are the muscles that you tend to use the most since they are required for any sort of walking, running, squatting, lunging, jumping, and a number of other movement patterns. Because of this these muscles take on more stress and strain over any other muscle groups throughout your body.
One area that you should focus on is the gluteus maximus and your hip rotators. To hit the gluteus maximus, sit on the roller and lean toward the side you are trying to address. You are also going to want to address the TFL (tensor fasciae latae) and glute medius. To hit these areas, lay on the roller so that you can roll the top of the anterior side of your upper leg as well as turning onto the side to roll the lateral part of your upper leg. Another important area to foam roll is your adductors. This area is a little more difficult to hit, and probably more ignored than the areas already mentioned. The best way to roll your adductors is to swing your leg over the top of the roller while laying prone with your hips externally rotated. This will put you in the best position to put pressure on the roller while the roller is on the medial part of your upper leg.
There are a number of opinions on how to foam roll correctly; there are debates as to whether or not foam rolling should be used for recovery at all. With any heavily debated topic, I recommend that you at least give foam rolling a try and see what works for you! You can't ignore it's potential benefits to release muscles tension, increase blood flow and increase range of motion, so next time you're at the gym, recover with a foam roller and feel for yourself how it can help!