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Foam Rollers-Your Personal Message Therapist Featured

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woman-foam-roller-back-2Deep-tissue massage is the only way to release knots in your muscles. This is why foam rolling is growing so much in popularity. Deep-tissue massage with a foam roller makes your muscles longer and smoother by causing "trigger points," or knotty areas in your muscles, to be released through a process called myofascial release.

Most everyone, including elite-level athletes, experience success from various deep tissue message techniques. Foam rollers make this deep tissue massage available to everyone at a reasonable cost. Essentially, foam rollers are the poor man's massage therapist.

Foam Rollers, What are They?

A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of hard-celled foam. They usually come in one-foot or three-foot lengths.

Foam rollers are available in a number of densities from relatively soft foam to high-density rollers that feel more solid.

Using Foam Rollers

Use the foam roller to apply pressure to sensitive areas of your muscles-sometimes called trigger points, knots, or areas of increased muscle density. The idea is to apply pressure to injury-prone areas themselves.

Use a foam roller to apply long sweeping strokes to long muscle groups like the calves, adductors, and quadriceps, and small directed force to areas like the TFL, hip rotators, and glute medius.

Use the foam roller to search for tender areas or trigger points. Roll these areas to decrease density and over-activity of the muscle. With a little direction on where to look, most people can easily find the tender spots on their own.

The feel of the foam roller and intensity of the self-massage should be properly geared to your age, comfort, and fitness level. This is one of the plusses of being able to roll yourself-you can control the intensity with your own body weight.

Using Foam Rollers Before and After Workouts

Generally, foam rollers are used both before and after a workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote better warm ups. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise.

Foam rollers can be use on a daily basis. You can work trigger points work up to 12 times a day in situations of acute pain.

How long people use a foam roller is determined on a case-by-case basis. Usually allow five to ten minutes for soft tissue activation work prior to warm up at beginning of an exercise session or after an exercise session for the same amount of time.

In What Areas are Foam Rollers Best Used?

Foam rollers can be use on almost any area of the body, but it works best on the lower extremities. Because the upper body tissue is not as dense, people are not as prone to the same frequency of upper body strains as lower.

Foam Roller Protocols

Gluteus Maximus and Hip rotators:

· For the gluteus maximus, sit on the foam roller with a slight tilt and move from the iliac crest to the hip joint to address the gluteus maximus.

· For the hip rotators, cross the affected leg to place the hip rotator group in an elongated position.

As a general rule, 10 slow rolls are done in each position (although there are no hard and fast rules for reps). Often people are simply encouraged to roll until the pain disappears.

TFL and Gluteus Medius:

The tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius, though small in size, are significant factors in anterior knee pain.

· To address the TFL, begin with the body prone with the edge of the roller placed over the TFL, just below the iliac crest

· After working the TFL, turn 90 degrees to a side position and roll from the hip joint to the iliac crest to address the gluteus medius.


A great deal of time and energy is usually focused on the quadriceps and hamstring groups, but very little attention is ever paid to the adductors.

There are two methods when using a foam roller.

· The first is a floor-based technique that works well for beginners. The user abducts the leg over the roller and places the roller at about a 60-degree angle to the leg. The rolling action begins just above the knee in the area of the vastus medialis and pes anserine, and should be done in three portions. To start, 10 short rolls are done covering about one third the length of the femur. Next, the roller is moved to the mid-point of the adductor group and again rolled 10 times in the middle third of the muscle. Last, the roller is positioned high into the groin almost to the pubic symphysis for a final set of 10 rolls.

· The second technique for the adductors requires you to sit on a training room table or the top of a plyometric box, this allows you to shift more weight onto the roller and work deeper into the large adductor triangle. Perform the same rolling movements mentioned above.

Upper Body:

Although foam rollers are primarily use on the lower body, foam rollers can also be used on upper extremities. The same techniques can be use for pecs, lats, and rotator cuffs, although with a much smaller amplitude-making the movements closer to accupressure.

Foam Rollers Effectiveness

Foam rolling is hard work that can even border on being painful. It is important that you learn to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort related to working a trigger point and a discomfort that can lead to injury. When you are done foam rolling, you should feel better, not worse. And the foam rollers should never cause bruising.

Foam Rollers vs. Hands on Message

Even though foam rollers are great, hands-on work is still better. Hands are directly connected to the brain and can feel. A foam roller cannot feel. But, foam rollers are still a great low cost alternative. They provide unlimited self-massage for around $20.

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 06:42
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