The Best Foam Roller Exercises for Any Sport

Foam Rolling: Rolling Long and Rolling Wrong

by Dr. Steven Kaiser, Sports Chiropractor

Demonstrating how to foam roll during a recent Kinetic Learning Event with the Blue Rooster Cycling Team. Taken at our Fremont location in Seattle.

Demonstrating how to foam roll during a recent Kinetic Learning Event with the Blue Rooster Cycling Team. Taken at our Fremont location in Seattle.

As rumor would have it, summer is just around the corner in this part of the world. While it may take a few months to really hit, one thing is for sure…Seattleites are chomping at the bit to get those precious D-Vites we have been getting via gummy form for the past 6 months.

Marathon first timers, road racers, ultra marathoners, relay-warriors, triathletes, and more will begin hitting the trail, road, and mountains this summer, and spring is no better time to get ready to move!

Getting active is one of the best investments we can make in our own lives, perhaps even more important is that we get moving, and moving well, before we even get active. Moving means mobility, and mobility means fewer injuries, something we take very seriously at Kinetic Sports Rehab. While I will certainly advocate for stability in future blogs, it's crucial that we know some ways to improve the way we move!

Foam rolling is taking the world by storm, and many of us have already heard the phrases: "I just gotta roll out first", or, “let me smash my quads first and I’ll meet you there later”, or my favorite, “wait for me while I iron my pants”. While all are correct, the point is the point - we have muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia that all play a role in our tissue mobility. Foam rolling is one amazing new way in which we can assist our bodies to perform better, recover faster, and improve our range of motion.

 

The Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal (the official journal of American College of Sports Medicine) has this to say about the benefits of foam rolling:

The most important findings of the present study were that [foam rolling] was beneficial in attenuating muscle soreness while improving vertical jump height, muscle activation, and passive and dynamic ROM in comparison with control.
— Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal

The experts at Perform Better state that foam rolling:
 • Corrects muscle imbalances
• Improves joint range of motion
• Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress
• Decreases neuromuscular hypertonicity
• Increases extensibility of musculotendinous junction
• Improves neuromuscular efficiency
• Maintains normal functional muscular length

 

In real world terms: foam rolling can have an impact on various tissues, joint movements, and can help with recovery from those long or intense runs, cycles, paddle board adventures. And while it is low risk, there are right and wrong ways to get those tissues moving correctly:

Top Foam Roller Exercises:

IT Band and Thigh

This band of connective tissue holds our hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps in check, it runs down the side of the leg from the hip to the knee.


Peroneals and Calves

This is the area on the side and back of the lower leg, that take a beating during trail runs, and can a problem here can be debilitating if there is tightness or incorrect biomechanics.

 
 

 

Bottom of The Foot

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries for any sport- and a good session with a lacrosse, tennis, or golf ball are all effective ways to loosen the tissue.

 
 

 

Some Helpful Foam Rolling Tips:

#1 Don’t spend too much time on an individual area.

Most injuries that are foam-rollable are caused by an issue that isn’t exactly where the knots are formed. It is important to hit the areas AROUND the injury equally so that the whole tissue can respond accordingly. A perfect example is the IT band- ensure to work the gluten, quads and hamstrings, as these are the connections the IT band is controlled by.

#2 Make sure that you are foam rolling with proper posture and with correct movements.

It is important to consider that the body is smart, and it learns, so take the time to establish good posture while rolling, in order to further train the body to repeat these movements. In the same way, moving the muscles while on the foam roller will introduce some added benefit because the muscle is used to moving, and will respond better this way.

#3 Don’t foam roll your stomach!

Most of us wouldn't consider this, but the same applies to the lower back. There isn’t enough of a base of tissues to roll on, and the margin for injury is much higher. Be careful on these sensitive areas (back of knee and armpit as well) in order to keep pressure off of nerves, arteries and organs.

#4 Do foam roller exercises every day, especially when you are not injured.

Our bodies are facing a lot of trauma daily, be it CrossFit, or just sitting at your desk for 10 hours, we need to introduce some stimulation back into the body.

There are clearly some positives from foam rolling! When done correctly, it can be a wonderful adjunct therapy to help you reach your performance goals! Talk to the experts at Kinetic Sports Rehab if you have any questions, we are here to help, to assist you reach your performance goals!

Keep on Rolling!

- Dr. Steven Kaiser, Doctor of Chiropractic