The foam roller is now a standard piece of equipment in the athletes tool box. It is an excellent adjunct to any stretching routine and can be used before, after, and between exercise sessions. Foam rolling is like a self massage and is effective in releasing muscle/connective tissue tension & knots, hence increasing range of motion and function. At the tissue level the benefits include increased oxygenation through increased blood flow, flushing of waste products, and softening of adhesions & scar tissue. As well as the direct massage effect of the roller, some of the exercises also engage the core muscles, and hip muscles, which are critical for strong healthy running.
Below are 8 key foam rolling exercises that you should add to your routine to help prevent running injuries.
Like any tool, the foam roller needs to be used properly to be effective and safe. Take note of the recommended rolling ‘duration’ and ‘frequency’. Copy the technique shown in the videos. While foam rolling can be mildly uncomfortable, it should ultimately feel ‘good’. If an exercise doesn’t feel right, leave it out and discuss it with your therapist.
To start, select a foam roller that is of a medium density. Too hard and it will be painful. Too soft and it will be ineffective. As you get better at rolling you can then experiment with other types of foam rollers on the market.
1. Spinal roll – an excellent way to release muscle tension and mobilise spinal joints
2. Quads roll – you can work the quadriceps anywhere from the knee to the pelvis taking in tight hip flexor muscles.
3. ITB roll – the classic foam roller exercise. A mainstay exercise for ITB syndrome and patellofemoral problems, both common running injuries.
4. Hamstring roll – you can increase the intensity by using the same double loading technique as seen below in the calf roll.
5. Calf roll – Every runner gets calf muscle knots.
6. Lateral leg roll – with the fringe benefit of a side plank.
7. Gluteal roll – for the buttocks.
8. Hip adductor roll – use the end of the roller in the forearm plank position.
Foam rollers are an essential tool to compliment a stretching routine and help runners remain stretched out, agile, and injury free. Be sure to add it to your training schedule.