Ever since my high-school field hockey days, I’ve been cursed with insanely tight hamstrings. Despite daily yoga and regular stretching, my hammies continued to rebel. Struggling in my down dogs and forward bends, I was becoming increasingly frustrated. One day a friend and former professional athlete raved about the magical, muscle-loosening power of the foam roller. Intrigued by his conviction, I started doing my homework. As serendipity would have it, Greatist–one of my favorite online fitness and health resources–did a feature on how to foam roll like a pro and it gave me the extra push I needed to see what this seemingly simple piece of equipment was all about. I ended up going with a 36-inch, high-density product from Isokinetics. You can pick one up for under $25 on Amazon.com. It is well worth the investment!
I’ve been foam rolling on a(n almost) daily basis since this thing arrived and have really noticed a big difference. When I was first learning how to rock the roller, I used the infographic below (source: Greatist), but now I just play around depending on what my body needs.
The IT band and hamstring moves hurt so good and are great for runners and athletes of all kinds. The one exercise I would add to this list is for the groin. Simply lay on the ground, belly down. Place the foam roller off to your right side and place your right leg on top of it, bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift your torso up off the floor 4-6 inches and rock laterally, letting the roller glide along your inner thigh from knee to groin. Do this for 60 seconds (or as long as you can) then switch sides. By adjusting your body weight you can control the pressure/level of discomfort. The higher your raise your body off the floor the less force will be placed on the muscle group you’re working (but the more you’ll have to engage your arm and core muscles). Keep in mind this should be uncomfortable. It’s like a sports massage–hurts like hell during but makes you feel phenomenal when all is said and done. Don’t short change yourself and really push through to your edge!