ADAM MICHAEL BREWER: Hey, I’ve got a simple session for pain for performance.
We’re going to start by sitting on a foam roller.
What I want you to do is take your right hand back.
And then, we’re going to cross that right foot over on top of that left thigh.
And all we’re going to begin to do is roll that tush across that foam roller.
What we’re doing is looking for little tight spots in our butts.
When we find them, we want to try to stay there and allow ourselves to roll through that and release that tension.
That’s one of the things we’re trying to do with this foam rolling activity is just allowing some of the tension to release in some of the major muscles in our joints.
Beautiful.
We’ll just do a couple more of these rolling back and forth.
And then, we’re going to switch, you guys.
So let’s come off of here.
And we’re to get the other side.
All we do is take, in this case, our left arm back.
We switch it over.
Take that left foot up to the left leg.
And we do the same thing.
Now we’re targeting, in this case, that right glute.
Beautiful.
Just back and forth we’re going.
Nice and easy as we roll.
We’re looking for the tight spots allowing ourselves to, again, just soften into this.
And again, some of these little rolling techniques that we’re going to give you are going to be a little more intense than others.
This one can be that way.
There’s no doubt about it.
But just, again, look for those little spots.
Nice, you guys.
Last few.
Beautiful.
The next area we’re going to target is your hamstrings.
So we sit off of the foam roller.
And we just allow ourselves to put the back of our legs on the roller itself.
And we’re going to press ourselves up with our hands.
And again, we’re just targeting now the hamstring.
Rolling back and forth across it.
Beautiful.
And again, what we want to do is start just above the back of the knee.
And then, just going right up just below the glute itself, right below your butt.
And just again, look for any tight spots as you roll out the back of your leg.
Great.
How does that feel, you guys?
How does that feel at home?
If this is new to you, probably something totally different.
It takes some time to get used to, comfortable with.
But you’ll get it in no time.
Very nice, you guys.
All right, we’re going to change and we’re going to get the other side of your legs now.
So we’re going to get what we call your quadriceps, the front.
So in this case, again, we’re going to face the foam roller.
We’re going to lay down, elbows on the ground underneath our shoulders.
Placing it on the front of our thigh.
And here, we just pull ourselves back and forth.
Targeting, in this case, just above the knee to just below the hip.
And again, looking for those tight spots.
And just stay there rolling gently back and forth softening up that area of the body.
Recovery, recovery, recovery, beautiful.
Just going across the front of that thigh.
You’re doing great, you guys.
Keep it up at home.
You’re doing an amazing job.
Excellent.
Last ones.
All right, good job.
Now we’re going to go into an area that sometimes can be a little intense.
It’s called your IT band.
And the way we’re going to start this one is we’re going to put the foam roller on the mat.
And we’re going to shift here.
We’re going to allow ourselves to place, in this case, our right thigh up on top of it.
We allow ourselves to be on our elbow.
Left leg is in front.
And we just roll back and forth across the outside of that thigh area, the IT band.
And this spot can definitely sometimes feel it.
You might be going, oh my gosh, my golly.
What that’s telling you is you need this.
This area, in particular, can help reduce a lot of knee pain if you stay with this one.
Just work through it.
Last couple here.
Beautiful.
Last one.
Excellent.
We’re going to switch to the other side.
So we just adjust that foam roller.
Take it over.
Same thing.
We put the outside of that thigh on the foam roller laying down on our left elbow, crossing, in this case, that right foot there.
And we just go there.
Right across.
Again, we’re using our arm to support.
If you needed to, you could even come up here.
That’ll release a little of the tension so you won’t feel as much in this one.
Yeah, because again, as I said, this first time you do this, if you haven’t done it before, oh my, oh my, you will feel this son of a gun.
No doubt about it.
Beautiful, you guys.
Back and forth you go.
Last couple of these.
I love it.
And then, we gently release from there.
We’re going to get what we call our lats.
So what we do now, in this same side of our body, is we place the roller underneath, in this case, just below the armpit.
We extend our arm out.
The top leg sits back behind me.
And I just roll out just down to just below my ribs.
And I come back up again just below the armpit.
Then just go back and forth.
That lat area of your back.
We’re loosening it up.
How are we doing back there, you guys?
Good.
Doing all right back there, AC?
You doing all right there at home?
This stuff actually feels really good.
I hope this becomes a regular part of your routine.
No doubt about it.
Beautiful, you guys.
Now we’re going to shift.
We’re going to get the other side.
So we’re shifting over.
And we’re going to roll it.
Same darn dealio on this side, too, you guys.
We lay down.
Extend that arm out.
Put it underneath our lat muscle.
Top leg is working for us.
And we just gently roll back and forth across the entirety of that muscle.
Beautiful, smooth movements, not rushing anything.
Just looking for little tight spots in that back muscle known as the lat.
Great.
Just keep rolling.
Nice work.
You guys doing it?
Looking good, Jeff.
You guys got it.
Awesome, AC.
And you’re doing an awesome job at home.
Last couple.
And now, we’re just going to get our back.
So what we’re going to do is lay flat on that.
We’re going to put it underneath our shoulder blades.
We’re going to lay back.
And for this one here what I’d like you to do is hands behind our head.
We’re going to lift the hips up.
And then we’re just gently going to roll back and forth.
Just a couple times on this one.
Beautiful breath.
Let it flow.
Rolling through that mid-back up to just around the shoulder blade area, maybe a little bit higher if it feels OK to do so.
Beautiful.
And then, let’s place our hips on the ground, you guys.
The roller is just underneath our shoulder blade.
And last thing we’re going to do is just let our head fall back.
And just open up our shoulders, open up that chest.
And we just breathe.
Breathe deep.
And then, slowly we’re going to come on up bringing the elbows towards our body.
We’re going to put our hand down.
Press ourselves up.
And that’s going to complete the pain free performance session.

Should I Foam Roll Before My Workout?

Foam rolling is typically known as a post-workout ritual, but there are many benefits to doing it before a workout, too. Two fitness experts, Jennifer Giamo and Candice Cunningham, tell us why we should foam roll before our workouts.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

“Foam rolling is a form of self-massage or myofascial release,” Giamo says. “It helps to break up adhesions or scar tissue that form in muscles as a result of repetitive movements (i.e., exercise). By foam rolling, you can increase blood flow to the tissues and improve mobility, which aids in recovery and performance. It helps to reduce tightness in muscles so that they can move through a range of motion with ease.”

Check out the foam rolling classes available on Aaptiv.

Cunningham adds, “Foam rolling helps release these and allows them to work the way they should.” By simultaneously preparing your muscles for your next workout and helping them recover faster from your previous one, you can decrease your risk of injury.

Giamo notes that a foam roller “can also be used as a workout tool itself! There are different exercises that can be performed on the foam roller, such as balance, stability, and core work.”

Is it better to foam roll before or after a workout?

Our Aaptiv trainers agree that you should do both. Giamo explains, “Foam rolling prior to a workout will help build heat. decrease muscle density, which will allow for a better warm-up prior to exercise.” Cunningham adds that foam rolling is a better warm-up than static stretching. “It gets the blood flowing to the muscle and works out any tight spots for better mobility.”

Where and how should I foam roll?

As Cunningham says, “You can foam roll almost every muscle in your body.” You’re not limited to one place, though common areas include hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Giamo explains, “The goal is to stretch and loosen the fascia surrounding the muscles. So it can be done on any muscle that feels restricted in movement, sore, or tight.”

Use the foam roller to find these trigger points or knots. Roll back and forth over them for a few seconds each—but not too long. “You want to roll along the length of the muscle and put as much bodyweight into it as possible,” Cunningham says. Giamo adds, “The movement should be slow and controlled. Otherwise, the muscles won’t have time to adapt to the pressure and you won’t release the tension.”

Foam rolling can be uncomfortable because you’re applying pressure to sore or tight points in your muscles. However, it shouldn’t be excruciating. It’s important to distinguish between good pressure and the bad pain that indicates something is wrong. If you find that the pain is too much for you, then Cunningham recommends seeing a professional. Foam rolling should have the same feeling as a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage.

Or, try a class on Aaptiv. Our classes have audio cues from our trainers so you can follow along effortlessly, without having to double-guess your form or movements.

“You can adjust the amount of pressure by modifying the positions or using your hands to support your weight if you’re doing lower body rolling,” Giamo says. But be careful not to push too hard. “It’s important to feel slight discomfort for foam rolling to be effective…but sustained pressure on a sensitive area for too long can cause damage to the tissue or could hit a nerve.”

A few more words of advice from Cunningham: She recommends being cautious around your lower back and neck. “These are very delicate areas of muscle, bones, and tendons.”

Don’t forget to foam roll after your workout, too!

Cunningham explains, “Recovery is just as, if not more, important than some workouts themselves, and many of us don’t implement it enough.”

So, yes, while you should foam roll before your workout, don’t skip it after training as well. “It’s very good to help with muscle repair and a great, inexpensive way to aid recovery,” Cunningham says.

“Rolling post-workout can help in recovery and possibly decrease soreness or shorten the amount of time a muscle feels sore,” Giamo explains. Don’t let delayed onset muscle soreness get in the way of your next workout!

Now that you know the benefits of foam rolling try it out for yourself with Aaptiv.

IS FOAM ROLLING WORTH A SPIN?

There are several different types of foam roller, ranging from one solid piece of foam, to hollow tubes with lumps and bumps emerging from the outer foam, and even rechargeable vibrating ones. The earliest scientific reported use of the foam roller is from 1996, when foam rolling was used in a warm-up routine designed to help performing artists increase their range of motion (ROM). Thereafter, foam rollers slowly began appearing in both academic and popular literature, and their cult status has continued to increase. In the past five years the use of the foam roller has exploded, and they can now be seen on pretty much every gym floor across the globe.

Does foam rolling work?

Despite being twenty or so years since studies began, the science behind foam rolling is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, some useful patterns in the research findings are starting to emerge.

  1. Foam rolling, overall, does not appear to affect athletic performance

    Many studies have explored the effect of foam rolling on subsequent athletic performance, yet only one study has ever concluded that foam rolling impedes athletic performance. Every other study has either found no effect, or a positive effect on performance. This suggests that, overall, foam rolling before exercise will not hamper performance.

  1. Foam rolling before exercise may well improve short-term flexibility

    Many studies have explored the effect foam rolling has on short-term flexibility, concluding that foam rolling before a workout will increase the ROM at the joint the muscle crosses (e.g. foam rolling down the thigh muscles increase ROM at the knee). This suggests that using a foam roller as part of a warm-up routine could be beneficial.

  1. Foam rolling after exercise can help reduce DOMS

    All of the studies exploring whether foam rolling after exercise reduces the symptoms of delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) have concluded that it does. It has been suggested that 20 minutes of foam rolling at the hips and legs for the three days following a leg training session may decrease DOMS pain. An acute 10-minute foam roll may immediately reduce DOMS pain for up to 30 minutes.

Why does it work?

More research needs to be done to provide really conclusive evidence, but there are three prevailing theories as to why foam rolling works:

Theory 1: Both the mechanical pressure and subsequent heat generation causes the fluid at the joint to become runnier, which decreases the resistance that would otherwise be caused by friction. Think of the effect that oil has on a metal joint, it’s the same thing.

Theory 2: The direct pressure along the direction of muscular pull slightly re-aligns any collagen fibers from a more random to a more uniform direction, leading to increased lymphatic drainage and less resistance.

Theory 3: The direct pressure onto the muscle shows a typical stretch-response (e.g. when you stretch, the muscle contracts for a few seconds, and then relaxes allowing you to stretch further), meaning that after 15-30 seconds, the muscle relaxes enough to increase the ROM.

The bottom line

The research behind foam rolling suggests that using a foam roller can yield important benefits, whether you use the foam roller before or after your workout. Using the foam roller before training can increase the ROM, which could decrease chances of injury. Using the foam roller after training can decrease DOMS, which could speed up recovery and make DOMS more manageable. It seems that using the foam-roller does not impede performance, meaning that you have nothing to lose by trying it out!

HOW TO FOAM ROLL EFFECTIVELY

There are several ways that you can use a foam roller depending on which joint or muscle you want to affect, and what type of foam roller you are using.

Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular and effective foam rolling exercises. These target the muscles and joints that tend to be the tightest in most people.

Calf

  • Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath the upper part of the ankles
  • Lift your hips off the floor and move your body down towards the roller (so the roller is rolling towards the knee).
  • Move so that the roller is about an inch nearer to the knee, and then rock side-to-side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch up towards the knee.
  • If the pressure isn’t hard enough, try it with one leg only.

Quads

  • With the foam roller on the floor, face the floor with the foam roller just above your knees on the quads.
  • Move so that the roller is about an inch nearer to the hip, and then rock side to side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch up towards the hip.
  • If the pressure isn’t hard enough, try lifting one leg up and doing it with one leg at a time.

IT Band

  • Lie on your side with the foam roller resting just up from the knee on the side of the leg.
  • Move until the roller is about an inch nearer to the hip, and then rock side to side for 15-30 seconds. Repeat inch by inch moving towards the hip.
  • If the pressure it too much, put more weight into your arms to decrease the pressure on your leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Glutes

  • Sit on the roller so that the roller is underneath the butt.
  • Bring one leg across until the ankle rests on the opposite knee/thigh.
  • Using your arms for support behind the roller, move the roller up and down and side to side.
  • Once you find a particularly tender spot, hold the pressure on that spot for 15-30 seconds.

Mike Trott is a UK-based fitness professional who specializes in sports personality psychology and sports exercise physiology. He has conducted academic research into group exercise interventions and personality, exercise addiction, and foam rolling physiology, and is also a multi-award-winning Les Mills instructor, trainer and presenter.

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Why, When, and How to Use A Foam Roller

In recent years, foam rolling has gone mainstream. Once a self-massage technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists; foam rolling is now an everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. There’s a reason for the popularity of this self-massage technique: it’s simple and it works!

With the (usually foam-based) cylindrical muscle rollers now widely available in a variety of designs and firmness levels, there’s never been a better time to start. Here’s what you stand to gain if you haven’t tried foam rolling, and how to do it better if you’ve already started.

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is also called myofascial release. But what is fascia? And why do you want to “release” it? Fascia is the thin tissue that connects our muscles. Think of it as your body’s internal packaging—it helps muscle groups cooperate as integrated units. When it’s healthy, fascia is flexible, supple and glides smoothly over your muscles. But binding in your fascia can form for a variety of reasons, such as muscle injury, inactivity, disease, inflammation, or trauma. Even just sitting at a desk all day can get your fascia “gummed up” and stiff.

A foam roller is a simple cylinder (usually made of foam or flexible plastic) which you can lay on in a variety of positions, allowing your body weight to put focused pressure on affected muscle groups. Try rolling your quads, glutes, and hamstrings—or even muscles in your back, hips and shoulders. Rolling over problem areas can help release that built-up tension in your fascia and re-establish the integrity (and optimal performance) of muscle tissue.

Why is foam rolling so beneficial for endurance athletes?

When you are doing a highly repetitive movement such as running, swimming, or biking, you’re typically overusing some muscles and underusing others—especially if things aren’t in perfect balance. The muscles that get overused tend to get tight, and a tight muscle doesn’t function properly. When you foam roll, you can help improve symmetrical (ideal) muscle function by ‘resetting’ tight areas. By taking a few minutes around each workout (and each day if necessary), you can help prevent imbalances and overuse injuries.

How to Foam Roll

It is better to be too soft than too hard. It might feel tender as you roll through the tissue but it should not be agonizing. To keep it simple and systematic, I like to divide the muscle that you’re rolling into three segments—bottom, middle, and top. Give each section a few passes up and down, move onto the next one, and then finish off by giving the entire length of your muscle a pass over.

With each pass through the muscle group, you can then work deeper into the tissue for more release. It is very possible to find several trigger points throughout your body. When you hit a spot that’s especially painful or tight, pause here and try to relax. Give it time and the muscle should release—anywhere from 5-30 seconds. For more precise areas, try something like a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. As you get to know your body and how it responds to foam rolling, you may go shorter or longer as needed.

When to Foam Roll

Foam rolling can be performed prior to and after your workouts. Before exercise, rolling will increase tissue elasticity, range of motion and circulation (blood flow). This can help you move better during your workout and protect you from injury.

Foam rolling post-workout is a great way to enhance recovery. Focus on all of the major muscles you just worked, with an extra emphasis on the areas that feel problematic. By stimulating blood flow in affected areas, you’ll dramatically increase oxygen to your sore muscle fibers and reduce recovery time. In fact, most elite athletes get massages regularly for this reason. While nothing can quite replicate a good sports massage, you can enjoy many of the same benefits at home (or between massages) with a foam roller.

Thank you to Lauren Babineau for her contribution to this article

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Foam rolling before workout

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