with foam roller releasing
As modern living habits take their toll on connective tissue in the body, it’s time to help clients and participants benefit from simple but effective foam roller exercises, says Zosha Piotrowski.
The body is an integrated system that should be able to comfortably move with freedom of range and without pain. However, our 21st century lifestyle, in which we spend more time sitting and moving our limbs in forward positions as we tap away at computer keyboards, can lead to connective tissues and muscles becoming stuck or ‘glued’. This may result in a lack of synergy throughout the body as the chain (myofascial line) leading to and away from the glued area is compromised.
I always ask participants in my Pilates classes ‘How juicy is your body today?’ What I’m really asking is ‘Are the connective tissues in your body acting like a sponge, whereby there is a compression and expansion of hydrated connective tissue?’ Most people’s responses are negative, as they are experiencing a degree of tension or pain which could indicate that certain areas may be suffering the effects of lack of mobility, overtraining in one range or possibly dehydration.
The foam roller can play a valuable role in ungluing the body and recreating the sponge-like effect in the myofascia. Using this tool to perform a myofascial release effectively allows you to self-massage, making it a great way of warming up the body pre-workout and warming down post-workout. The roller doesn’t need to be used exclusively in the exercise environment, however – clients can benefit from using it whenever they feel the need to relieve tension in their bodies, during the day in the workplace or at home at the end of the day.
The following exercises focus on areas that have a lot of layers of connective tissue – and which therefore tend to get more stuck. It can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes of releasing to feel immediate results, although long term change will take longer in combination with exercises that open up the glued channels.
Lower through to upper back (photo 1)
Lifting the buttocks, put the weight of the body on the roller and roll up and down the spine, taking your time to search for the areas that need a little more focus. These areas may need the foam roller to be held on a spot, and then worked over the area again. Remember that the sponge-like feeling may take a lot longer than one session to achieve.
Side-to-side (photo 2)
Keeping the buttocks off the floor, roll up and down the spine leaning on one side, paying attention to the boney areas (i.e. the scapula) as it is a junction of many layers of fascia. Then change direction and roll across the body from side-to-side and up and down. Remember to breathe steadily as you roll.
Extension over the roller (photo 3)
The best exercise for opening the chest and giving the spine a chance to extend. Sit on the floor and start with the roller under your shoulder blades with your face up. Support the head with your hands and take a deep breath in for five counts and then, as you breathe out, let the spine extend over the roller. Ideally, hold the position and breathe out for 10 seconds, feeling the body release. Breathe in and then, as you breathe out, slowly bring the chin towards the chest and roll the spine back up to starting position. Take advantage of the extension and if you don’t get too lightheaded, take two or three breath cycles in the extended position. Also, change the position of the foam roller along the spine, being very careful to not make the spine feel vulnerable. Some clients may have a lot of tension in this area, so be mindful to not force the movement and to keep range low.
Chest opener and scapula release (photos 4, 5 & 6)
Start sideways with the foam roller under the armpit and along the shoulder blade, with knees together and on the floor. Take a breath in as you bring the elbows together and then, as you breathe out, open the elbow, shoulder, ribcage and sternum to the opened position. Breathe in, and hold the position as you breathe out, allowing a softening of the body. Take a breath in and then, as you breathe out, bring the elbows back together again. Repeat up to five times and on both sides.
Scapula release (photo 7)
A great position to release around the scapula, particularly in-between and below the neck. Position your body diagonally to the roller, with the body horizontal and the head supported by the hands. Breathe in and out evenly as you roll across.
Hip joint release (photo 8)
Moving to the lower body, focus on releasing around the hip joint area. Rolling over the hip, and even around the sit bone, can bring some relief from tension. Again, roll from back to front and up and down. Support yourself with your upper body and remember to keep the body connected and not saggy.
Knee area (photo 9)
Moving down the leg, roll around the outside of the knee, specifically the area just above the knee on the side, where the ITB starts to insert into the patella and down to the tibia. This one can be very ‘challenging’ – so tell clients to think nice thoughts and maintain even breath!
Leg (photo 10)
Sitting up and supporting with arms, place the roller under one knee with the other leg on top and with caution, roll sideways and up and down. If the pressure is too intense, place the bottom on the floor and just use the weight of the legs. Do the same on the other side and then bring the roller under the Achilles tendon and roll up and down and side-to-side. If your client is still your friend after this you are doing a great job!
Thigh release (photos 11 & 12)
Take the body into the prone position, supporting yourself with elbows, and maintain good alignment through the spine. Place thighs on the roller and move the leg up, down and across the roller. Spend a good amount of time here as there are bound to be some glued areas!
The foam roller is an exceptional tool for all brainers and group exercise instructors. Clients and participants will immediately feel the benefits, and will soon crave the feeling of release it brings. It’s great to walk into a class, studio or gym floor and see participants and clients rolling and starting to understand the benefits of this simple but highly effective piece of equipment.
Zosha Piotrowski, BSpSc (Exercise Science)
Zosha’s years of experience and intricate knowledge of the fitness industry have facilitated her journey to becoming a popular international presenter and key lecturer for numerous education and group exercise courses. A former Australian Fitness Network Presenter of the Year and writer and host of Pilates TV, Zosha now resides in Hong Kong where she focuses on working with special populations.
Learn first-hand from fitness legend Zosha during her WAFIC 2013 sessions:
• Pilates, posture and the 3rd dimension • B1G
• Aero-Groove • B4F
• Mummas that move! • C2E
• Movement inspired Pilates • C4G
For more information, session details and to register online, visit www.waficperth.com.au