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Foam Rolling Part 1
Upper Body

Foam Rollers
Foam Rollers

Massage has been used for decades to help athletes overcome injuries and prepare muscles for more intense workouts. But hiring a massage therapist before every workout would be a little difficult to schedule, not to mention how much it would cost. That's why foam rollers have become so popular. Think of them as an "on demand" massage therapist.

The name Foam Rolling is a little generic. Today there are several devices used for self massage or acupressure including the traditional long foam rolls, knotty tubes and bumpy cylinders. For hard to reach areas, some people use lacrosse balls, tennis balls or even a basketball.

The concept is simple. You lay on top of the roll, pressing down on the body part that's giving you problems and "roll" back and forth to massage out the kinks. Depending on who's teaching you, those sensitive areas may be described as knots, trigger points or areas of increased muscle density. The pressure from your bodyweight combined with the rolling, help stretch the fascia tissue.

Foam rolling has had some notable successes. It's been proven to reduce pain in 94% of patients who suffered from chronic plantar fasciitis and it helps people who have Iliotibial band syndrome.

In the past, stretching before a workout was promoted as a way to reduce injuries. After several studies, that proved to be wrong. What's worse, researchers discovered that stretching pre-exercise actually made subjects weaker and less effective. But foam rolling appears to be different.

In small studies, people who foam roll before a workout reduced or alleviated pain in connecting muscles and joints. When pain is decreased, exercise tends to be more effective. Subjects also increased their range of motion without experiencing any drop in strength during their workouts.

Much larger and longer-term studies need to be done, but early results are clear. Foam rolling key bodyparts before a workout is something you should consider adding to your routine.

Keep in mind these points. Foam rollers come in various densities, from soft foam like a pool noodle to very dense models with hard nodules. Generally, the less muscle you have, the softer the roller should be. Used properly, a roller should be firm enough to impact the muscle, but not hard enough to leave a bruise.

During the roll, you should stop on any tender points for 10 to 60 seconds before moving on. Try and roll each section until discomfort (muscle knots) dissipate. Five to ten minutes seems to be an appropriate amount of time for the entire rolling session. It will probably be uncomfortable when you're doing it, but you should feel better when it's done.

Below are a few rolls for the upper body you might want to try.

Foam Roll Chest

Begin exercise standing up with chest placed directly on the LaCross or Myo-Ball. Roll the chest across the ball looking for the point of discomfort, which is generally lower and outside the area of the chest. When it's found, either put pressure directly on the area or slowly roll back and forth over the area.


Foam Roll Upper Trapezius

Begin exercise standing up, back to the wall with your upper back/shoulder placed directly on the LaCross or Myo-Ball. Extend the arm on the side the ball is on and position that arm straight out in front of the shoulder. Roll the back/shoulder across the ball looking for the point of discomfort. When you find it, pull the arm across the chest with the opposite arm. The discomfort will become more acute if you are on the external-rotator.


Foam Roll (LaCross Ball) Shoulder External Rotator

Begin exercise standing up, back to the wall with your upper back/shoulder placed directly on the LaCross or Myo-Ball. Extend the arm on the side the ball is on and position that arm straight out in front of the shoulder. Roll the back/shoulder across the ball looking for the point of discomfort. When you find it, pull the arm across the chest with the opposite arm. The discomfort will become more acute if you are on the external-rotator.


Foam Roll Lat

Lie on your side, with your lats directly on the foam roller. Your legs are supporting your body weight. The side you're rolling should have that arm outstretched above your head, but steadying your body. Roll the lats from high to low and outside to inside.

Click Here for foam rolling exercises for your lower body.

Click Here to purchase a foam roller.

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2/16/2014