Tagphysio

Cross Training for Aerial – Part 5: Foam Rolling

I first started foam rolling after subscribing to StudioVeena who recommended it for use before stretching.

In her tutorials she would outline how to roll the large muscles in the legs before flexibility training, as a way to increase blood flow to the muscles and loosen up knots and tight areas before working on regular stretching sequences.

Physios and massage therapists sell a variety of foam rollers and spiky balls of all shapes, sizes, and firmness depending on how they will be used. As well as being a great asset to your flexibility training, foam rolling can work wonders on DOMS, and be generally soothing for an active body. Chunky rollers are great for larger muscles. Spiky balls are perfect for getting into smaller muscle groups in the back and shoulders, or for massaging the forearms after training.

When choosing your foam roller, keep in mind your tolerance during a regular massage. The softer the roller the softer the pressure, and the firmer or spikier the roller, the more it will dig in to those tight spots. A deep tissue experience can be effective but you don’t want to be in so much pain that you can’t commit to rolling up and down your leg!

My preference has been a hard, smooth roller that I picked up at the local Clark Rubber supplier! It’s the perfect density to use everyday, before stretching or after training, large enough to roll my hamstrings, quads, and glutes, but also small enough to throw in the car if I need to bring it along to a comp or showcase.

Foam rolling is a “self-myofascial release technique” that works by massaging the fascia and muscle fibers. Research suggests,

“Self-myofascial release causes an increase in short-term flexibility that lasts for >10 minutes but does not affect athletic performance acutely. Self-myofascial release may also be able to increase flexibility long-term, in programs of >2 weeks.”

Sounds pretty good right?

Here are some photos of how I use my roller at home. You probably need a space similar to what you use for yoga to make sure you can lay down and roll in various directions. It’s a great practice to turn into a habit though, and once you know what you are doing, it’s easy to incorporate into your day, even while watching television!

I like to start on my legs and glutes, remembering to roll up and down the entire muscle and at various angles.

Foam Rolling glutes

 

While sitting on the foam roller, I angle my body to either side, rolling in the direction of the muscle fibers. By placing my foot on the floor or lifting it up, I can change how much of my body weight I am putting in to the motion. Listen to your own body as you roll, slow down on the “sweet spots” – those trigger points that seem to be more painful than others – or even pause for up to 30-60 seconds and you will find the tension begins to release.

Foam Roller HamstringsFoam Roller Calves

My roller is long enough for me to do my hamstrings, calves and quads side by side. Though once again, I can change the amount of pressure I’m applying by rolling them one at a time or leaning into¬† it at a different angle.

Foam Roller Quads

Fellow polers also roll their ITB. I find this incredibly painful but sometimes have the nerve to work up to it, rolling over from during my quads to catch it as I roll down my outer thigh.

Foam Roller Adductors

Rolling your adductors, or inner thigh, can be a bit tricky, however those with good hip flexibility may find this easier. Try and cover as much of the muscle as possible and don’t forget to slow down or pause over any trigger points.

Foam Rolling Stretch Foam Rolling Forearms

Recently I have been rolling my forearms and upper back and then using the roller to perform and overstretch for my shoulders. After rolling up and down my forearms, with the large foam roller and a tennis ball, I sink back into a child’s pose with my arms resting on the roller. Breathing into the stretch, I try to sink my chest down to the floor, feeling the stretch along my upper arms, down my lats under my shoulder, and across my shoulder blades. Coming out of the stretch I try to curl my spine in the opposite direction, remembering to breath as I come out slowly.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water post foam rolling session. Any type of massage increases blood flow around the area and staying hydrated will help the lymphatic system and circulatory system do it’s job, reducing the chance that you’ll feel groggy and need a nap after your session.

If you have a foam roller at home I’d love to see your favourite techniques and stretches! Post them here or tag me in your photos online!

Bodywork

my bodyHaving always been involved in some form of physical activity, be it now pole, yoga, or athletics and hockey back when I was younger, I have gained a fairly thorough but basic knowledge of anatomy.

I know that the hamstrings are the large muscles at the back of my thigh. I know that I have calves, quads, three types of glutes, hip flexors, psoas, etc. etc.

 

In more recent times I have learned about fascia, the tissue that is almost like a second skin surrounding the muscles, tendons, and joints. Fascia can be released through massage and foam rolling, which is an amazing way to begin stretching or soothe muscles after a performance!

I know that protein helps you build muscles, and severe DOMS can keep you away from another workout for days!

But it wasn’t until I tore both hamstrings (a misadventure from 2013), and started doing my own research into flexibility and how the muscles, tendons, and joints function collectively, that I began to understand how my body works. And, perhaps more importantly, how my body needs to work together.

Take this exercise from StudioVeena (one of my favourite forums for all things pole related!).

Veena explains:

“This exercise may not look like much but it’s important and helpful, in understanding the scapula and how to properly engage during training for pole or aerial work. If you are new to this exercise the movement may be very small, the more you practice the better control you’ll have. Avoid raising the shoulders up the ears, keep them down and trapezius relaxed.”

After you Google where your scapula and trapezius are, please take heed of another avoidance warning.

Avoid flaring the ribs, articulating the motion from the shoulders and not from the chest and back.

It took me about 5 re-tapes to finally get a consistent shot of me doing the exercise properly. I was transfixed! Why did my version not look like Veena’s? And after unpacking the motion, turns out it was rib flare. Caused by what? By not activating through my abdominal muscles.

This was a revelation to me that my shoulders were connected to my abs! It makes sense now, of course I need to stabilise my torso as I articulate my shoulders back and forth. I need to keep balanced! But my body also seems to have the bad habit of flaring my ribs and arching through the lower back, keeping me balanced, but compensating for each other’s bias.

And this is the crux! I could articulate my shoulders further backwards if I allow the movement to continue through my chest and abdominals. This movement when viewed from the side would create a curve, starting at the top of my back, coming forward over my sternum, continuing across flared ribs, and exiting my body as it arches through the lower back.

But a more stable movement, and one that will actually support shoulder strength and mobility, is one that isolates the movement to the area of the shoulders and upper back. For now, it may look less impressive. But for the longevity of my body (particularly my lower back!) it’s a step in the right direction.