Massage breaks up tightness within muscles by applying pressure from different angles. It is great for helping muscles recover, improving mobility and flexibility, and reducing aches and pains from training and competition—all of which enhance performance. Unfortunately, massages are expensive, preventing most young athletes from realizing their benefits.
Athletes like New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul gain most of the benefits of massage at a fraction of the cost with a foam roller.
To eliminate muscle tightness, slowly roll a dense foam cylinder over any affected area, lingering on spots that are particularly sensitive. Common target areas include the IT Bands [outside of thighs], glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and upper back.
At first, foam rolling may feel uncomfortable or even slightly painful; however, over time pain and discomfort decline as your muscles and tissue are loosened. After continued use, you should notice a dramatic reduction in tightness, enhanced mobility and flexibility, and more range of motion in your joints.
Experts recommend foam rolling both before and after a workout—before to loosen up muscles and after to remove any toxins (such as lactic acid). Feel free to foam roll every day to maximize the benefits.
Perform the following foam rolling exercises, as shown by CP3, for 30 seconds each to improve flexibility and ease aches and pains.
- Lie face down
- Place foam roller under quads, balance on elbows and maintain tight core
- Roll slowly from knee to hip; concentrate on sensitive areas
Benefits: Improves flexibility of these often over-developed muscles; expands hip and knee mobility for jumping higher and running faster
Variation: For greater intensity, foam roll one leg at a time
- Place foam roller under hip and assume side plank position
- Balance on elbow and opposite leg; use leg to adjust intensity
- Roll slowly from hip to knee; concentrate on sensitive areas
- Perform on opposite leg
Benefit: Prevents tightness and knee pain that result from overuse of the IT Band
Variation: For maximum intensity, place feet together and off the ground
- Sit with side of glute on foam roller and cross leg over opposite thigh
- Slowly roll back and forth over glute; concentrate on sensitive areas
- Perform on opposite side
Benefits: Reduces pressure on the sciatic nerve to improve nervous system control of lower body muscles and eliminate low back pain
Variation: Roll side to side over sensitive areas to release fascia from multiple directions