After a long day in the saddle you might be craving more flexibility than static stretching can offer, so limber up with these tips from Lachlan Searle.
“With its repetitive nature, cycling is the kind of sport that leads to stressed, sore and tight muscles. Not only is this painful, it can also severely restrict the performance of cyclists on the bike.
Luckily, in the form of the humble foam roller, help is at hand.
Foam rollers provide a much cheaper and convenient way of treating tight muscles than visiting a physiotherapist or masseuse. They can even increase flexibility by relaxing tired muscles.
By affecting a form of myofascial release, foam rollers heal muscles by easing the tension built up after exercise. In other words, they iron out the painful and debilitating ‘knots’ developed in stressed muscles through exercise. Essentially, a foam roller allows the user to carry out their own cheap deep tissue massage.
So how is a foam roller used?
The key to the successful use of a foam roller is the identification of trigger points. A trigger point exists where pain is felt when pressure is applied to a muscle.
The pain you feel when you stretch, for instance, is caused by the straining of trigger points.
When treating muscles with a foam roller, you should focus on the trigger points. Obviously just like stretching, this will hurt a little. But the pain shouldn’t be so intense it becomes unendurable.
This article will list more specific instructions for different muscle groups later, but what follows should be taken as a general guide.
The foam roller should be moved slowly, over a distance of about three centimetres per second. When the roller arrives at a trigger point, pause and relax until you feel the tension releasing. After a few seconds the pain should lessen and you should resume.
If the pain doesn’t subside quickly and becomes too much to bear, begin by focusing on the region close to the source of the pain before gradually working over to the painful region. Once the areas around the tense muscle are relaxed, it should be easier to roll out the tension in the painful area.
The time spent on rolling exercise depends on how long it takes to ease the muscle tension, so it will vary for each user. It’s therefore inadvisable to assign a time limit to individual exercises. As a general rule, the user should continue rolling until the muscles palpably loosen or the rolling becomes too painful to continue.
A foam roller can be used on a daily basis, but shouldn’t be used more than once a day.
Here’s how to correctly use a foam roller to treat the major muscles affected by cycling:
Sit on the floor with the underside of your right knee resting on the foam roller. The left knee should be bent. Stretch out your arms so your hands are resting on the floor behind you, immediately behind your back. Use your right leg to roll the foam roller up and down slowly, so that it moves from just above your knee to just below your glutes.
Swap legs and repeat.
Sit on the roller. Stretch out the left leg, and bend the right at the knee. Stretch out your arms so your hands are resting on the floor behind you, a little behind your back. Lean over to the left slightly so that the bended leg is not bearing all your bodyweight. Slowly roll the glute up and down over the roller. This motion will be quite small.
Swap legs and repeat.
Sit on the floor with your legs pointing straight out. Stretch out your arms so your hands are resting on the floor behind you. Place the roller under your calves. Raise your bottom off the ground so your body weight is only supported by your hands and the roller. Manipulate the roller slowly up and down your leg, from your ankles over your calves to your knees.
Lie face-down on the floor with the roller positioned under your hips. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor in front of you so only the roller and your forearms are supporting your weight. Your legs should be airborne with your toes pointing straight out behind you. Use your forearms to gently roll your body over the roller. Roll from your pelvis to just above your knees.
Put your right hip on top of the roller so that you are lying sideways. Cross your left leg over your right knee, placing the left foot on the floor. Put your hands on the floor in front of you for support. Slowly manipulate the roller up and down, from just below your hip to just above your knee.
Switch legs and repeat.
Lie on your back with the roller resting underneath your shoulder blades. Raise your pelvis and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Your back should be slightly arched. Tighten your abs and glutes and roll slowly back and forth, manipulating the roller between your shoulder blades and the middle of your back. “