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Foam roller - more than just a massaging tool!

3 Foam roller exercises you didn’t know you needed to be doing!

If you are familiar with working out I am sure you are well aware of what a foam roller is, but my question for you is, do you actually use it? If you’re anything like me, the true answer is no. From time to time you might remember to use it at the gym or at home, but rarely do you use it on the regular. Rolling feels like it takes a long time and often doesn’t feel very nice, but is a very important part of your exercise routine! The foam roller is the most basic tool for self-massage or mobility you can own! Using these devices can help relieve muscle soreness by releasing myofasicial build up, or in layman's terms knots in your muscles and connective tissue. The best way to self-massage is to use the foam roller to apply pressure on these pinpointed spots so you can loosen the tight soft tissue and improve blood flow. This will also aid in recovery of these soft tissues post exercise and reduce the soreness you feel from exercise or your daily life.

Along with rolling/massaging those pressure points, or knots, you can use a foam roller to perform mobility exercises. I bet you didn’t realize that! Having poor mobility is another reason you may experience tightness or soreness after exercise or day to day activities. Since the vast majority of people sit most of their day, either at a computer for work and then in front of the TV at home, it is VERY important to work on staying mobile. Sitting for long periods of time causes your shoulders to round forward, hips flexors become shortened and tightened, and glutes and hamstrings get weaker from lack of use. Holding a static position like sitting for long periods of time causes your muscles to lose their function and will increase the likelihood of you experiencing aches and pains, it even increases your likelihood of injuries. Using a foam roller to perform simple mobility exercises and self-massage on a regular basis, a couple times a week, can help you move and feel better!

Whether you lift weights, run, bike, or even sit at a desk all day at work, using a foam roller should be a part of your exercise routine. Grab your foam roller and add these 3 exercises to your exercise routine to start feeling better!

T-Spine Rotation with Reach

This is an amazing mobility exercise to help combat poor posture and range of motion of your upper back (Thoracic Spine) associated with long periods of sitting. Good mobility in your T-Spine allows you to move better and pain free in basically all directions; flexion, extension, and rotation.

The Set-up: Lay down on one side, bend your top knee and place it on top of your foam roller. Top of the foam roller is level with your belly button, your top hip bent at 90 degrees and hips should be level keeping your pelvis stacked and knee supported by the foam roller.Support your head by using a pillow or towel roll. (You may need less pillow or towel roll as you rotate. The goal is keep your neck relaxed and in a neutral position. Your bottom arm is straight out on the floor at shoulder height and the top arm is reaching up towards the ceiling, aslo at shoulder height

T-Spine Exercise Steps

Step 1: Rotate - Begin slowly rotating your top arm behind you, think of your top shoulder moving toward the floor behind you. Maintain contact with the foam roller by pushing your knee down on it as rotation occurs. Reach the top arm out to a 45-degree angle from the body as you are rotating. Your bottom arm should be reaching towards the ceiling as you rotate backwards. 

Step 2: Hold - Your bottom arm should now be pointing to the ceiling, and the other arm rotated back as far as you can go comfortably. Let your breathing sink you further into the stretch while actively reaching. Take 5 deep breaths while holding this position, think of relaxing into the stretch further if you can.

Step 3: Return - After 5 deep breath cycles begin to rotate back to the start position, returning to the start position.

Step 4: Repeat - Now that you are back at the start of the exercise, feel free to repeat as many times as you like. Then switch to the other side and repeat.

Do you have a set of resistance bands at home? Click here to check this article out: 3 Must-Know Exercises for Your Home Workout Routine

Glute (Piriformis) Rolling

Use is self-massage rolling technique to help fight tight or sore glutes from exercise or sitting around all day!

The Set up: Sit on the foam roller with legs straight out in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left knee and lean towards your left side. Use your left hand for support if needed. 

Glute Stretch Set-up

Step 1: Roll Forward - Slowly roll over your left butt cheek. This movement will be small, only a few inches forward.

Step 2: Roll Backwards - Slowly roll back to the start position. Again this should be a small movement, only a few inches if that.

Step 3: Repeat - repeat the rolling process on this side as you feel necessary, as either repetitions or under a timed amount, then switch sides and do it all over again!

Glute Stretch Step 2 3 image

Modification 1: If you cannot cross your leg yet bend your knees and use your heels as support. Lean leaning your weight to one side and rolling out that butt cheek.

Glute Stretch Modification

Modification 2: If rolling feels too much, as in it is hurting a lot, feel free to roll to the tender spot and sit there for a few deep breaths. Work your way up to continuously rolling, as it can be intense if you are not used to it. Self-massage/rolling rarely feels good, but you never want to over do it. Make sure you are always working at a tolerable level for you!

Mini resistance loops more your style? Check out this article as well: Mini Bands: More Than a Butt Enhancer! 3 Mini Band exercises you need to be doing!

Shoulder Protraction/Retraction with Pectoral Stretch

This is an amazing mobility exercise, combined with a stretch, can help to relieve tension in your upper back and alleviate poor posture that stems from leaning or hunching forward often.

The Set Up: Lie on your foam roller directly under your spine, supporting your head and tail bone with the foam roller. Knees should be bent with feet flat on the floor. Arms should be above your chest at shoulder height, palms facing each other.

Shoulder Mobility Exercise

Step 1: Reach - Making sure your shoulders and back stay flat on the foam roller, slowly round your shoulders forward and reach your fingers towards the ceiling. Think about doing this in a nice slow 1….2….3…count. This is not going to be a big movement, most mobility exercises focus on small minute movements.

Step 2: Squeeze - Again, make sure your shoulders and back stay flat on the foam roller. Pull your shoulders down and squeeze the foam roller in between your shoulder blades. This should also be done by doing a nice slow 1….2….3…count. Don’t worry if you don’t feel yourself moving a whole lot, this is also a small movement.

Step 3: Repeat - Repeat the movements above as many times as you feel necessary.

Step 4: Chest Stretch - after you are done the reach and squeeze spread your arms out wide and rest your forearms on the floor. Palms should be facing upwards towards the ceiling.

Chest Stretch over foam roll

Step 5: Hold - Hold this position for as long as you feel necessary, focus on breathing deeply and slowly while relaxing into the stretch.

As always, as a quick reminder before starting any of these fun new exercises, make sure that you consult your physician or trusted health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath at any time while exercising you should stop immediately and contact your physician immediately.

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