Foam roller exercises can benefit us in a variety of ways – from increasing flexibility to relieving muscle tightness and tension. Since foam roller exercises can virtually be done anywhere (at the park, at home, while traveling, etc.), we just need a Foam Roller (and an optional Mat).
In collaboration with Tiffany Gutierrez (a PMA certified Pilates Teacher and a TRX Instructor specializing in post-rehabilitative and restorative movement on the Monterey Peninsula in California), Inspirations & Celebrations recently launched a new fitness tutorial series dedicated to foam roller exercises. In Part 1, Tiffany shares 4 foam roller exercises that relieve muscle soreness; here in Part 2, she shows us 5 foam roller exercises that boost flexibility and lengthen muscles.
Foam Roller Exercises – Part 2
Increasing flexibility can help alleviate tension and tightness while improving your body’s natural mobility. In addition to lengthening your muscles (which makes you look longer and leaner), increasing flexibility helps you more easily do everyday activities and sports.
As published by Harvard Medical School, “Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion. This improves athletic performance — imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve — and functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks.”
Foam Roller Exercise 1
Setup: Sitting on top and in the center of the foam roller, place your hands on the mat behind you to support the upper body. To begin, start with both knees bent in front of you with even body weight. Slowly start to roll forward and back, shifting to one side and then the other, rolling over the entire gluteal region. Work 30-60 seconds on each side.
Tip: To increase body weight into each gluteal and get deeper into the muscle, try crossing one ankle over the opposite knee and then slowly leaning your body weight in toward the bent knee.
Side note: Tight gluteal muscles can often be the cause of pain in other areas of the body such as lower back, hips, and even the knees. If you suffer from sciatic pain, foam rolling throughout the gluteal muscles can be a great thing, however, if done incorrectly can also exacerbate your condition.
Foam Roller Exercise 2
Setup: Sitting on top and in the center of the foam roller, turn your body to one side to bring roller just under your hip. Crossing your top leg over your bottom supporting leg, turn your body slightly inward toward the roller and support the upper body. Slow and controlled, gradually move your body up and down over the roller, working the roller to the outside of your thigh and just above the knee.
Tip: Modify this movement by supporting the upper body on your forearms which allows for a bit more control over how much body weight you are placing on the roller.
Side note: A “tight” IT (Iliotibial) Band may be the result of another issue. Do not roll directly over the band area. Try rolling out the surrounding muscle groups.
Foam Roller Exercise 3
Setup: Lay face down with the roller underneath your thighs. Support the upper body on your forearms. Make sure your center is lifted (draw your navel in toward your spine) so you are not sinking into your low back. Start to slowly roll back and forth over the entire belly of the quadriceps muscle. Avoid rolling over your knee area.
Tip: Maintaining your center control, start with the feet parallel and then turn out to externally rotate from your hips to roll into the inner thigh area.
Foam Roller Exercise 4
Setup: Position yourself on all fours with your shins resting on the roller. Pulling up through your center, gently shift your weight to the outside of one leg and then to the outside of the other leg while rolling back and forth. You can alternate side to side or stay on one side for 15-30 seconds and then switch to the other side.
Tip: To add more body weight into the massage, keep the majority of your weight over your hips and not forward over your hands.
Side note: If you suffer from shin splints, foam rolling may help but may not be the immediate answer. Try rolling out your calves and surrounding muscle groups first.
Foam Roller Exercise 5
Setup: Sitting on the roller, place the roller just below your glutes. Place hands on the mat behind you to support the upper body. Lift your hips away from the mat. Gently roll back and forth over the entire belly of the muscle. Avoid rolling behind the knee. Move the roller below your knee and repeat the previous movement over the belly of the calf muscle. At both areas, start with feet parallel and then turn out to externally rotate from the hips. Point and flex through the foot as you roll forward and back.
Tip: Lift one leg slightly up off of the roller to roll one leg at a time and increase body weight pressure. To modify, rest the hips on the mat and just lean into the stretch by rolling one leg at a time.
It is important to understand why you are foam rolling. If you are interested in adding the foam roller into your existing stretching or workout routine, check out Part 1 of this foam rolling series to learn key points before starting. If you are unsure, always consult with your medical professional to see if the foam roller is a fit for you.
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For more exercise tips and tutorials from fitness experts and celebrity trainers, check out the Fitness section on Inspirations & Celebrations. Be well and stay inspired on your fitness journey!
Fitness Contributor: Tiffany Gutierrez
Tiffany is a PMA certified Pilates Teacher and a TRX Instructor specializing in post-rehabilitative and restorative movement and has been teaching and educating on the Monterey Peninsula since 2010. Having worked within various fields of movement therapies and with a background in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, she has a passion for healing through mindful movement, encouraging and challenging individuals of all levels to gradually achieve optimal performance of physical and mental fitness, health, and well-being. To learn more about Tiffany and find out where she’s teaching a class on the Monterey Peninsula, follow her on Instagram at @tiffanylaceypilates. As a fitness contributor to Inspirations & Celebrations, Tiffany shares Foam Roller exercises that help alleviate muscle tension, relieve soreness and tightness, and relax your body.