Roll out! Foam Roll the Right Way


For some reason everyone wants to roll around on the foam roller like its a rolling pin rolling out dough. Unfortunately, taut bands of muscle, or trigger points, typically don't smooth out if you just roll over them back and forth. I like to use the analogy of getting a massage -- sure it feels good, but you aren't really fixing anything. Massage alone is never going to fix your injury or pain! Good manual therapy will focus specific pressure directly on spots that need attention. The good news is you can also do "manual therapy" to yourself!

When rolling for the quads, make sure to scan the whole length of the muscle (down to your knee cap) and flex/extend the knee while keeping pressure on any tight spots you find. 

Use the roller to find the tender spots in the muscle, then use that muscle to move your body as the pressure stays on the tender point. Do about 10 reps, and then either find a new angle to apply pressure (seen here by rotating the leg outward) or simply relax and think about letting the muscle become loose and 'mold' over the roller. Once the tenderness dissipates, find a new tender spot to release!

Oh, and the IT Band is a thin band of tissue, like a piece of paper on the outside of your leg. Smashing into this piece of paper with a foam roller is not going to flatten it anymore. Instead, position your leg so that the outer edge of your quad is touching the roller, and bend and extend the knee. This is the location that the IT Band gets "stuck" to the quad, limiting mobility. Further, the IT Band attaches into the TFL, which is way up by your "hip bone", so make sure to start searching for tender spots in your quad way up high by your hip, like in the video. Releasing the muscle that the ITB attaches to (instead of trying it on the IT band) will give you a much better chance at getting more range of motion!

You can follow the same principles for any muscle! Most people have significant calf trigger points, so I picked that one to demonstrate. 

Many times when you first try this the tenderness can be uncomfortable. If you cannot tolerate holding yourself up on your hands, simply stay seated on the floor. If crossing your leg over also feels too painful, you can do the ankle pumps without your leg crossed over. As you practice, you will be able to tolerate more force as you roll out the deeper trigger points. Again, make sure to scan the whole length of the muscle, and move the ankle when you find a spot that needs attention.