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Maximize Stretching With a Foam Roller

Maximize Stretching With a Foam Roller

Foam rollers have become a popular tool for relieving muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation. They can also increase range of motion in the joints while releasing myofascial adhesions (a.k.a. trigger points where muscle knots reside).

These trigger points arise from any number of causes including muscle imbalance, overuse, and injuries. So it’s no wonder the foam roller has become ubiquitous in gyms and fitness studios.

But did you know you can maximize stretching with a foam roller too? Especially when you add it to your warm-up and cooldown stretches before and after exercise.

What Does Foam Rolling Entail?

If you’ve ever had a deep tissue sports massage, then you’ve experienced the wonders of myofascial release. Your therapist was able to manipulate your tissue in such a way that he or she released tension in the tissue that surrounds the muscles (i.e. the fascia). 

Foam rolling is similar, except that you use your body weight on a foam cylinder to achieve the same result. By using small repetitive motions on a foam cylinder to exert pressure on muscles, you’re effectively smoothing out knotted connective tissue. 

Sounds like it would feel great, right? Well, not so much. 

The truth is, rolling out those myofascial adhesions can be uncomfortable. Even a bit painful. But it’s the “hurt so good” sort of pain. Because at the end of the day, if you’re able to manage the discomfort, the payoff will be increased range of motion and decreased recovery after working out.  

One of the most significant benefits of using a foam roller though is increased flexibility without losing strength. When foam rolling is used in tandem with stretching, the muscles loosen to create less friction during movement. All of this leads to a broader range of motion for a more productive and less injury-prone workout. 

How to Maximize Stretching With a Foam Roller

You can certainly use the foam roller to target problem areas. But by integrating a head-to-toe rolling regime into your stretching sessions, you’ll get the benefits throughout your entire body. 

Here are some things to consider as you introduce this new technique to your stretching/workout regimen:

1. Slow Down and Breathe

When starting a foam-rolling regimen, the tendency is to go too quickly and to hold the breath. This is mostly because it can be painful to work out those knots. But moving too fast will minimize the benefits. 

So it’s key to slow down when working those target areas and take long deep breaths to oxygenate the blood that’s flowing into the muscles. This will provide the most success.

2. Use the Contract-and-Relax Technique

Once you’ve been foam rolling for a while, you’ll likely incorporate the contract-and-relax technique without really thinking about it. This method is the foundation of foam rolling. 

Simply put, you find a tight spot, then stop and focus on small rolls in that area until you feel the muscle release and relax into the roller. It won’t be a field day. But it WILL do the job.

3. Introduce Movement to Your Roll

While performing both stretching and foam rolling will get deep into the fascia, doing them together adds an additional dimension of release. So while moving on the roller, consider adding some soft-tissue stretching.  

For example, moving into pigeon while on a foam roller (also known as a sliding pigeon) can effectively stretch the external rotators of the hips, glutes, and the often problematic IT bands.

4. Get Up Off the Floor

Know that you’re not consigned to the earth when working on a foam roller. There will be occasions when you need to get to smaller muscle groups that require different angles and more or less pressure and body weight. You can use a bench or a wall to address these situations.

5. Any Time Is a Good Time

Adding foam rolling to your dynamic stretches before working out and static stretches afterwards is hugely beneficial. But you’re not limited to the time you’re in the gym or fitness studio. 

For instance, you could add foam rolling to your evening regimen after a shower or while you’re binging your favorite show. It’ll ease and calm the muscles for sleep and lessen your overall recovery time. 

Ready to Explore the Benefits of Foam Rolling?

While you can maximize stretching with a foam roller, there are so many other benefits that go along with this amazing tool.

So if you’re curious about the ways foam rolling could bring you relief and release while increasing your stretching efforts, contact us today. 

Our highly-skilled Pilates instructors and physical therapists are excited to work with you to help you get the most out of this beneficial technique. 

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