The foam roller: if you’re a runner (or active person), this little piece of equipment should be your best friend. Fit Tim is here to share his five favourite foam roller exercises, and save you a bundle in physio and chiro fees!
5 Foam Roller Exercises
1. ITB Release
This is the most popular release as the ITB is actually tissue (fibrous connective tissue in fact) and not muscle. The ITB is the Illiotbial band that helps stabilise the knee joint. It is a band of tissue that can get stiff if you increase your running volume too quickly. It should be released on the foam roller after every run to avoid ITBS (Illiotbial band syndrome) which can lead to irritation and inflammation around the knee.This means there is not as much blood flow – which is why it is usually stiff/painful for everybody who dares roll it out.
Releasing the ITB with a foam roller in combination with strengthening the VMO (medial quad muscle) is the BEST thing to prevent runners knee, or any knee issues at all. In a nutshell: to prevent (or save) many knee issues, simply stretch and lengthen the outside of your knee, and strengthen the inside and proper knee alignment will be yours!
How to: Lying on your side, roll out from the top of your hip to just below your knee, using your arms to help you move you up and down.
2. Foam roll your spine straight
Back in the early 2000s when foam rollers began to become popular in gyms, they were actually called Thoracic Foam Mobilisers (TFM). They were used to reverse the rounded shoulders (or hunchback) that many of us develop as we sit longer and longer at our desks each day. The smaller ones were used at first, and then when this one is mastered you can move onto the larger 6-inch ones.
Remember it should always be ‘mild discomfort’ and not pain you are feeling.
How to: Start at the top of your spine, just below your shoulder blades, and slowly make your way down to your lower back. Then work your way back up again.
The biggest muscle in the upper body is your lats, that run from your lower back right up to your arm. These are often forgotten when rolling, but can house some nasty trigger points, and add to rounded shoulders.
How to: Lie on your side and roll out from your mid-back to just above your armpit.
Second to the ITBs, the calves are usually stiffest on most runners (and high heels wearers!), and if you’re both then make this a staple post-running/dancing habit. If you want to make this even more effective then place one calf on top of the other and roll out the inside, outside and medial part of your calves, spending the longest amount of time on your stiffest area (for most people this will be the inside).
How to: Sit in the dip position and place your leg/s on top of the foam roller. Roll from the back of your knee to your achilles.
When you run, you not only push off your toes but you also pull your toe up towards your knee every time you stride forward, so release the front of the shin muscle (tibialis anterior) and remember to breath out the pain.
How to: Lie face down in the plank position and roll from just below your knee, to the top of your feet.
Foam Roller Rules
- Actually roll! Don’t spend too long on one spot.
- Make sure you hold good posture and don’t collapse, ie. when rolling out your quads or shins, your abs should be switched on – no saggy hips!
- Take your time. The tighter you are, the more time you need to spend on that area. Most massages go for at least 30 minutes, so try to spend at least 10 minutes if you are stiff. This will potentially save you a LOT of money in massage, physiotherapy and chiropractic fees.