So you've decided to use the foam roller with your personal training routine - here are seven exercises to target the muscles most likely to benefit from foam rolling.
Now a massage therapist is easily able to modify the pressure they exert through massage and can therefore work safely with vulnerable areas of the body such as the neck and shoulders. But because your bodyweight is used to apply pressure onto trigger points with the foam roller it is best suited to use only on large muscle areas, and not with vulnerable areas like the neck.
It is also worth noting that good massage therapists are well trained in their craft – you may not be well trained in this area. This is another reason to leave tricky deep tissue work to those who know it best (incidentally a good deep tissue massage therapist is an extremely valuable addition to any cyclists list of professional contacts).
When using foam rollers follow these key points to ensure your use is safe and effective in releasing trigger points;
With each foam roller exercise – roll slowly back and forth over the painful or stiff area of the muscle for between 30-60 seconds. You may well feel the trigger points themselves as small, sensitive bumps – focus your attention on rolling directly over these spots.
Avoid rolling over any bony areas (knees, ankles, hip bone etc)
To release particularly troublesome trigger points and tight muscles try to roll these areas two to three times a day – this may require your client to purchase their own roller.
To prevent trigger points from coming back try to use the roller two to three times a week over vulnerable areas (where trigger points have existed before, or over very active muscles that may be prone to developing trigger points such as the erector spinae muscles for office bound workers)
Use a similar pain or ‘discomfort’ scale as you would with stretching – if ‘1’ was no discomfort and ‘10’ was maximal pain then try to work within the moderate ranges of 4 – 7 depending on what you or your client are able to tolerate.
While there are many different foam rolling exercises, here is a list of seven of the best exercises targeting the largest muscle groups in the body that are especially prone to developing trigger points: 1. Erector Spinae Roll
With this exercise it is important to keep the feet on the floor and for beginners to keep their backsides on the floor to help limit the amount of weight being placed on the roller. Roll up and down the erector spinae muscles and concentrate on rolling over areas that are particularly stiff and sensitive. To allow more pressure to be exerted the backside can be raised off the ground thus putting more bodyweight onto the roller. To avoid straining the neck muscles it may help to support the head with the hands as shown here. Alternatively this exercise could be performed standing against a wall.
A long foam roller can also be used lengthways to roll the erector spinae muscles as shown here. When using the foam roller like this however care would need to be taken to avoid putting direct pressure on the spinous process’s of the spinal vertebrae (the prominant parts on the vertebrae that stick out and are vulnerable to injury) The erector spinae roll is likely to be particularly effective for office workers who spend hours stuck behind their computer screens and / or manual workers who do a lot of bending and lifting during their working day. 2. Gluteal Roll