Today, I want to talk about foam rolling! This is a pretty hot topic in the fitness realm right now. What are the benefits of regular myofascial release…and what exactly is myofascial release? I will also break down a couple of my favorite foam roller exercises.
The goal of myofascial release work is to break up the adhesions in our connective tissue, allowing our muscles to lengthen further, increasing range of motion. Our connective tissue, commonly called fascia is integrated throughout the body. There is connective tissue in between every muscle cell in our body. If you were able to look at the body without any muscles, bones, organs, or blood vessels, we would look like a large spider web. This is connective tissue, also known as fascia. Crazy, right?! Imagine an orange with each little compartment containing a little bit of orange juice. Connective tissue is kind of like that, surrounding each muscle cell.
There are also thicker bands of connective tissue throughout the body. A great example of this is the IT (iliotibial band). This band of connective tissue is connected to the TFL (tensor fascia latae) which is a small muscle on the outside of your upper leg. It is responsible for abduction (levering the leg away from the bodies’ mid-line) as well as stabilizing the knee. It then attaches just below the knee on the tibia.
To release the IT band, you could lie on your side with your left elbow planted on the ground. Place the roller under your left side just below the hip. You can plant your right foot down on the ground in front of your left leg if you are just beginning to foam roll. As you are able to adjust to the sensation of myofascial release, you can stack your legs on top of one another. I’ve pasted both options below. You will then roll the roller down towards the knee and back up to the hip. As an extra challenge, if you find a couple of points along the IT band that feel like knots, you can pause and bend your left knee at those points. This will encourage that portion of the IT band to lengthen further.
Another release technique that I love is for the intercostal muscles. These are little muscles that run in between each of our ribs, connecting them together. I like to roll out the intercostals by lying on my left side with the roller underneath the middle of my rib cage and a little pillow between my head and my arm. I will then find a space between the ribs and start to roll my torso forward and backwards allowing the roller to press into the intercostal. If this is tender or ‘tight’ feeling, I will pause and think of using my breath to expand the left lung, allowing the intercostal to lengthen under the roller. I will repeat this a few more times, scooting the roller up one rib each time until the roller is almost in the underarm. Before I move to the other side, I like to sit up and take a few breaths. If I took my time on the first side, I am able to feel like my left lung is able to expand more than the right as the ribs are more mobile and able to move when air fills the left lung. How cool is that???
There are many other forms of myofascial release work in the body. These are just my top two faves. Please comment below if you would like to learn about some other techniques! Thanks, beauties!