By Lucy Gornall
If you find your muscles aching after that full-body home workout you did a day or two ago, then we prescribe trying some foam roller exercises. Why, we hear you ask? One word: recovery.
If you’re doing any physical activity, you need to factor in this simple - but often painful - activity. Foam rolling areas of our body releases pressure and breaks down knots in our muscles, connective tissue and fascia, explains Dave Jordan, personal trainer and co-founder of London gym The Fitting Rooms.
‘As a result it can reduce the risk of injury, increase flexibility, improve circulation and performance, and reduce muscle soreness,' he says, adding: 'Once you’ve got over the initial pain it’s addictive.’ No, really!
So how do we know when a foam-rolling sesh is needed? ‘Once you start applying your weight to the roller, the areas of tension will show themselves by being painful – these are the spots you need to spend the most time on,’ says Dave.
Ready to roll? Below Dave explains how to use a foam roller to target five key areas - so grab your best foam roller and get rolling!
1. Upper back foam roller exercise
Helps to ease tension out of the majority of the muscles in the upper back but, more importantly, helps us to reverse the process of sitting in a forward-hunched position all day at our desk. Roll for 2-3 minutes a side.
2. Front of the quads (thigh) foam roller exercise
Lie face down and apply pressure to the front of your thigh – this releases muscles in your quadriceps, particularly the rectus femoris. When tight, these muscles can lead to pain in the patella tendon (basically, pain in your knee), which, with a little foam- rolling work, can be eased off. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.
3. Outside of the quads (thigh) foam roller exercise
The outside of the thigh can get very tight from weight training, but more commonly through repetitive running or jumping. This leads to an imbalance in the muscles leading into the knee which pulls your patella (kneecap) out of alignment. This can lead to severe knee pain. Roll for 3-4 minutes per side.
4. Hamstrings (back of the thigh) foam roller exercise
Most of us suffer from tension in our hamstrings and foam rolling can help restore function and help with flexibility. It can be difficult to get enough pressure on, so cross one leg/ankle over the other to apply more of your body weight. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.
5. Calves foam roller exercise
Ankle mobility affects sporting performance and the depth of your squat and can contribute to Achilles tendon pain. Rolling calves will improve all of the above. Calves respond better with the added pressure of the opposing leg crossed over the top. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.
Lucy is Health and Fitness Editor at various women's magazines, and also Editor of Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan. She lives and breathes all things fitness; she works out every morning, and mixes it up with runs, weights, boxing and endless box jumps. She is also a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios, primarily Digme Fitness. Lucy is pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food, and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to the odd Negroni on the dance floor with her friends.
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