Foam rollers, once confined to the massage table, are now offering fitness buffs the best of both worlds. When you incorporate these mobility rollers into your pre- or post-workout stretching routine, you gain both flexibility from the stretching, and the deep-tissue penetration of the rollers themselves.
Beginners may find that a half-roller is easier to use at first, because one half is flat to sit flush with the floor, providing more stability.
Start With Your Trouble Spots
Most of us have a problem area that bothers us during a workout — or which is the most prone to soreness afterwards. Work that trouble spot with your foam roller before moving onto the rest of your stretching. This method not only provides localized pain relief, but makes the rest of your stretching more effective.
If a stiff upper back is your usual complaint, for example, putting the foam roller under the middle part of your back, and rolling back and forth over it, will loosen up the knotted muscles there.
The action not only limbers up the problem area so that you can stretch your back, but allows you to bend and twist your trunk in order to do whole-body mobility work.
Move on to Whole-Body Rolling
As a preventative treatment against future injuries, it’s a good idea to incorporate your foam roller into as much of your whole-body flexibility routine as possible.
If you’re a runner, ward off shin splints by getting on your hands and knees, then moving your lower legs on top of the mobility roller. To work your glutes for greater mobility in your lower back and hips, sit on the roller and roll it back and forth underneath you, one “cheek” at a time. Stabilize your body by crossing one leg and resting it on the opposite knee, before switching to the other side.
Side-rolling helps work the joints running from your hips to your knees. Turn on one side and raise your torso with one arm, with your lower leg straight and the upper leg bent for support. Move yourself over the roller several times, from your hip to just above the knee. Change positions to work your other hip and upper leg.
Header photo by @proteone on Instagram.