Let me start by saying that I am not a licensed physical therapist. I don’t have training on muscles and how they work. These poses and comments are what have worked for me and my training. I have included a link to RunnersWorld where you can see videos of these stretches from a professional. As with any training program consult your physician. I did receive all these techniques from my physical therapist when I was working through my hip issues.
Ok, disclosure done lets talk foam rolling. This used to be my least favorite part of training partly because it hurt and also because it does take some time to do all the poses. Now its my favorite part of training because I have come to see the immense value in foam rolling. If I’m training and I go a week without doing some form of intense stretching my legs get so heavy and tired. Now I make sure to carve out at least 10 minutes of my day to at least foam roll. If I don’t get to do the yoga poses that’s ok at least I got the rolling in.
Notes on form: You will only get a great benefit from foam rolling if you are doing the poses correctly. This means spending a few seconds on each section of the muscle you are working on. If you just roll up and down quickly you aren’t getting the full benefit. Click here to see videos of each stretch from RunnersWorld, make sure and check them out if you are concerned about your form. Consult a licensed physical therapist if you need additional help.
Also make sure you aren’t spending more than about 10 minutes doing these. Foam rolling is great but you can over-stretch and lead to injury. Be mindful of that and my general rule of thumb is to stick with 1-2 minutes per pose per side.
IT Band: This one is by far the most painful for me and for runners in general. This is one of the largest muscles in the legs and connects down almost the entire length of your leg. If you have a pain somewhere chances are its related to the IT band. Adding this roll into my routine and focusing on especially painful (like deep tissue massage painful) areas has helped my legs works better. To do this roll lie on your side with the roller near your hip, rest your other leg’s foot on the floor. Move along your outer thigh. Increase pressure by stacking your legs. I’ve never been able to get to the stacked leg phase because my IT bands are so tight but its a goal.
Hip Flexor: Oh hip flexors you are almost as big of an issue as the IT band. There isn’t a video for this but I do this area as part of the IT band roll. As you are rolling the IT band make you way all the way up to your hip bone and apply pressure with body weight to the area. Gently roll your weight back and form in very small motions. This one is a little hard to explain but if you have hip issues you will know what I’m talking about.
Quads: This is a pretty strong muscle and I forget how sore and tired it can get until I do this technique. When I had my quad strain I actually used the trigger point roller which to me feels like it goes much deeper into the muscle. It was more painful but helped me heal faster. To do this technique lie on your stomach with a roller placed under the front of your thigh and slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee.
Glutes: Another big muscle that gets ignored a lot but does a lot of work. This roll is also good for parts of the hip as well. I only really feel this technique when I’ve done long or very intense runs. To do this roll sit on the roller and place one foot on the opposite knee. Lean into one buttock and roll forward and back, using your supporting leg to control the pressure. With the same leg over the same knee lean into the other buttock and roll forward and back. Now switch legs and repeat.
Calf: Very important after long periods of time on your feet, long flights or after a hard speed session. I find that the calves take a little longer to work out with a roller but don’t have problems as often as other areas of the legs. I use the trigger point roller when they are very tight and will supplement the rolling by wearing compression socks during runs until they loosen up. To do this technique put the roller under a calf. Rest your other foot on the floor. Roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate the leg in, then out. Stack ankles to add pressure. I always stack my ankles, otherwise to me its not enough pressure but you be the judge.
Hamstrings: To be honest I never feel this roll not even when I use the roller with grooves. I have heard that for some people this stretch is very painful but that has never been the case for me. I leave it in the rotation because all muscles are connected and I don’t want to get an injury just because I didn’t take 2 minutes to roll out the hammies. Plus its almost the same pose as the calf stretch so it makes sense to go ahead and do it. To do this technique place the roller under your thighs. Roll from the knees to the buttocks. To increase the pressure, roll one leg at time, turning your leg in and out. For even more pressure stack your legs. I stack my legs because otherwise I don’t feel any benefit at all but do what feels right for your body.
Tools of the Trade: I actually have 2 foam rollers (large and small) as well as trigger point rollers for quad and calf (this set). Each one works differently for me but I prefer my small foam roller the best. I think it has something to go with the grooves in my small foam roller but it gets the kinks out better. For my hip specifically I have this ball which has helped me out a lot with the stupid hip pain. I still have issues from time to time but using this ball has helped get to those random hard to roll places.