Whether you are a weekend warrior, recreational athlete, or a professional, improving athletic performance is a great goal. A critical component to increasing strength, endurance, and overall performance is effective recovery.
Repetitive muscle contractions from exercise will tighten the muscle, and the fascia with it. Fascia is connective tissue that binds the muscle together, and gives it its shape. Tight muscles will increase restriction and soreness, making training uncomfortable, less effective, and possibly painful.
You can stretch muscles to experience some relief, however, it is harder to loosen up the fascia.
Fascia needs pressure to help loosen it up.
Once the connective tissue is loosened up you will move better, be less sore, promote healing, and increase blood flow, allowing you to recover from your exercise much more quickly.
Utilizing your body weight with various tools can give fascia the pressure it needs to receive relief. Some options include:
- Foam Roller, or a PVC Pipe for a greater degree of pressure
- Lacrosse Ball or Tennis Ball (for more focal pressure)
- Rolling Pin
Implementing a full body foam rolling sequence can be very beneficial for loosening up the connective tissue around the legs and torso, which sometimes gets tight. As a reminder, if this remains tight, you will have a hard time moving like you are suppose to, especially for reaching optimal athletic performance.
FULL BODY FOAM ROLLING SEQUENCE:
With foam rolling you want to use your body weight to roll back and forth over various muscles to decrease the tension in the fascia.
- Calf muscles - Roll back and forth on the backside of the lower legs over the calf muscles, up and down from the ankle to just behind the knee for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes, as your tolerance improves.
- You can put more pressure down onto different parts of the calf by slightly turning on one side or the other.
- You can do both legs at once, or get a little more isolation by rolling one calf at a time.
- Hamstrings - Roll back and forth on the backside of the upper legs right on the hamstrings, from the buttock to behind the knee for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes, as your tolerance improves.
- Again, you can isolate and add a bit more pressure to one hamstring at a time, using the other leg to help guide you forward and back.
- Iliotibial (IT) Band - The IT band is a long structure that stretches from the pelvis to right above knee on the outer side of the upper leg. Roll out the IT band in sections -- start with the top half, then switch down to the bottom half closer to the knee. Again, rolling back and forth in these areas from 30 seconds up to 2 minutes.
- Sometimes rolling this out can be a little tricky since your body has to be contorted, and the pressure that it puts down. Play around with the position of your hands or opposite leg/foot to find what is most comfortable for you.
- Quadricep Muscles (quads) - Roll back and forth on the frontside of your upper leg over the quads, from the hip flexors to just above the knee, for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- You can do both legs at once, or get a little more isolation but rolling one quad at a time.
- You can put more pressure down onto different parts of the quads by slightly turning on one side or another.
- Upper Spine - Use the foam roller as a fulcrum for your upper back by laying the foam roll across your shoulder blades, so it makes a T with your spine. Either cross your arms across the chest or put them behind the head, whichever way is more comfortable. Gently arch your back over the foam roll to create extension in the thoracic spine, or upper back. Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat for 10 repetitions.
- Make sure your knees are bent, feet are flat on the ground, hips are on the ground, and core is tight.
- The thoracic area of the spine, or upper spine can get the negative strain of poor posture and end up limiting mobility in not only the spine, but also the neck, shoulders, and lower back. By loosening the fascia in this area you will improve posture, mobility, and decrease back pain.
- Mid Back - You can turn to face one side and have the foam roll to form a T with your ribs, just below the armpit. From there you will open up your chest and rotate the opposite arm back, pause, then return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 times on the first side, then switch and repeat on the opposite side.
- This will open up, and stretch the front side of your chest and ribs giving you more mobility.
- Pecs & Shoulders - Lay on the foam roll having it lined up with, or parallel to your spine. Start from “head to tail” -- Make sure your head is resting on the top of the foam roll, and your tailbone is resting on the bottom. Let your arms lay out to the sides of your body. Hold for 30 seconds, and build up to 2 minutes.
- As you lay on the foam roll have your knees bent and find your stability before letting your arms fall out to the side.
- You can bring your hands up higher to get a different portion of the chest, or lower down to hit the upper portion of the pec. For each position, hold for time as listed above.
To download your very own reference sheet for this Full Body Foam Rolling Sequence, CLICK HERE!