ROLL OUT! Foam Rolling: The Down And Dirty
This week’s post is brought to you by transplanted barre-bie, Bethany Stearns! She relies on her foam roller to get the max benefit from her barre workouts and is laying down what you need to know about this newly rising trend for peak muscle performance!
Do you ever have those days you feel like you could join the American Ballet Company or maybe even the Rockettes and other days you hope no one sees that your leg is barely hovering the ground in leg extension? More times than not, it has nothing to do with how “strong” your muscles are, but how healthy and efficient they are working.
What is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a secret weapon used by elite athletes, physical therapists, and athletic trainers (like me) to help muscle recovery for those overworked muscles. When muscles are overused, microspasms or “trigger points” form in the muscle and leads to dysfunction in the surrounding fascia. Fascia is a thin, elastic connective tissue that covers muscles and when it becomes constrained it results in tension and pain. Foam rolling irons out that fascia and releases the muscles knots, like the sports massage you love except with a foam roller, you have all the control and its FREE.
How does it work?
Foam rolling utilizes your own body weight to work out muscle tightness, trigger points and tension. Foam rolling relaxes and stretches your muscles as it improves inefficient muscle patterns, muscle imbalances, and decreased blood flow restoring optimal length and tension to the muscle and restoring fascial elasticity. As you work your muscles without properly working out the trigger points your muscles continue to tighten which can cause joint dysfunction, leading to muscle strains or other injury.
Why should I foam roll?
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Increase circulation
- Increase range of motion
- Increase speed of muscle recovery
All of this means that using the foam roller can help you #werkit harder and stay in that pesky pretzel longer so you can burn it up at the barre. What are the Ground Rules? Warning: Foam Rolling won’t give you the warm and fuzzies. It can be uncomfortable, but working out your trigger points will make your muscles and fascia more elastic and ready for the next barre sesh.
- Roll towards your heart when you are rolling out your arms or legs.
- First time foam rolling? Follow up with plenty of water (I know you already drink half your body weight in ounces, right?), keep an eye out for any bruising or discoloration, and give your muscles a couple days recovery time. Your muscles will become accustomed to the discomfort over time.
- Stop for 30-90 seconds when you find a place of tension in your muscle and hold it until you feel the tension release.
- Keep your muscles as relaxed as possible as you roll it out.
- Breathe through the uncomfortable parts. Trust me, my dog looks at me funny when I’m whimpering through the pain.
- You shouldn’t have any pain once you take your body weight off of the foam roller. Just like when you get a sports massage it is uncomfortable during the massage but you feel so much better afterwards.
- You can foam roll before or after your workout. I personally like it as a part of my stretching/cool down routine. It is most effective when it is immediately followed up by stretching.
What should I foam roll?
IT Band: Its the muscular band that runs from your hip all the way down to the outside of your knee. Start at the outside of your thigh near your knee, prop your upper body on your elbow and roll up towards your hip. You can use your opposite leg to help propel your body along the foam roller. When you reach a trigger point (trust me, you’ll feel the zing) pause there for 20-30 seconds….this part isn’t fun. Breathe through it. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Continue moving, stopping at each trigger point. Move slowly. If you need a little more, bend your working leg’s knee towards your seat.
Ouch! Repeat 1-2 more times
Piriformis: It’s that small muscle that does most of the work during outside seat. I think it’s the key to releasing your low back and hip flexors, your whole barre practice (it is a part of your core). You will definitely feel every bit of work you did during seat while your roll it out. Sit on your foam roller with your feet firmly planted on the ground, prop your upper body with hands behind the foam roller and cross your ankle over your thigh to make the number four. Lean towards the leg that is crossed and roll over your outside seat. Same as before, stop at any trigger points you come across and hold for 20-30 seconds. Need a little more? Use a smaller piece of equipment – like a tennis ball!
Hamstrings: Depending on how tight you’re holding your “heal to seat” you may have a more than a few trigger points to roll out. Sitting on the ground, place the back of both knees on the foam roller and place your hands on the ground at your sides to prop yourself up. Roll towards your seat, stopping at each trigger point for 20-30 seconds. Need a little more? Cross your legs at the ankle to put more pressure on the leg you are rolling out.
Mid-Back: Sitting on the ground with foam roller at lower back, lean backwards holding in your core, raise your hips off the ground and place hands behind your head and shoulder blades pinching that penny. Use your feet to push your body along the foam roller towards your shoulders. Make sure the foam roller is centered at your midline, you want it to do equal work on both sides of your spine. This will help with your posture at the barre and away from it, too.
Which one should I buy?
If you are “in it to win it” The Grid is my favorite. I suggest it to my athletes, bought several for the athletic training room, as a gift for my marathon running father-in-law, and have one sitting in my living room as we speak. It is covered in foam, but it is hollow which gives it more rigidity to work out those pesky trigger points. This one runs you about $40 for the 13-inch or $60 for the 26-inch on amazon or your local running store. Worth the investment, I promise. When you barre so hard to get those long, lean muscles….let the foam roller do some work to help your stems reach their budding potential. Hurts sooooo good.