Foam rolling is an effective and gentle way to warm up your whole body. It also helps release tension and aids recovery from intense exercise by facilitating the removal of lactic acid from the muscles.
If you’re just doing a general warmup, you can do around five passes with the roller on each location. If you’re recovering from an intense workout and your muscles are fatigued, you might want to do 10 to 15 passes, or more. I recommend lingering on any areas that are tender.
This warmup is suitable for beginners.
Start in a sitting position and move the roller from the soft area behind your knee joint to your sitting bone. As you roll, gently rotate your hips inward and outward—this will help you hit all key areas.
Next, scoot forward and roll back and forth from just in front of to just behind your sitting bones. These are the points at which the hamstrings attach to your pelvis, and they experience a lot of burden when your legs are very active. By rolling over them, you decrease the risk of injury to your tendons and hamstrings.
Hip Rotators and Extensors
The hip rotators and extensors are the muscles that attach the hipbone to the pelvis and allow you to rotate the leg inward and outward.
Start sitting with one buttock on the foam roller. Then raise the ankle of the same leg and rest it on the opposite thigh or knee. This will allow you to roll the backs of your upper thighs and buttocks. Use your upper arm and the leg on the ground as support so you can gently rock your body back and forth.
Repeat with the other buttock on the roller.
Now turn over so you are on your stomach with the foam roller under your thighs. Prop yourself up on your elbows, and roll from just above your kneecaps to the crease of your hips. Rotate your hips inward and outward to get all key areas.
Still lying stomach down, bend one knee at 90 degrees and place the roller under your inner thigh. Then roll along the inside of the thigh from groin to knee. These muscles can be sensitive, so be conservative and use only as much pressure as you can tolerate.
If you encounter a sore spot, you can stop and raise the foot as high as you can toward the ceiling, then roll with a bit of pressure on that area. This will internally rotate the hip and accentuate the massaging effect.
Next, straighten both legs and place the roller under the top of one thigh. Roll from here up into the pelvis, but not into abdomen. The hip flexor area is one that tends to be tight in most people, so if you find a very tender area, stop, bend the knee 90 degrees, and let the foot fall outward (by internally rotating your hip). This will increase the massaging effect on the muscle under the roller.
Supporting yourself on your arms and one foot, roll the outer side of your thigh from the side of the buttock down to the side of knee. This area tends to be very tight in people who are very active, especially those who do repetitive activities like long-distance running. Be conservative at first and regulate pressure by distributing your weight onto your upper body where it contacts the ground.
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Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Canada. His primary interest is sharing resources and ideas on self-health care. He can be reached via his website, DrBenKim.com