What Is Foam Roller And How Can It Help My Dressage ( Plus 8 Ways To Use It)
Many athletes and horse riders in particular struggle with shoulder mobility, flexibility and good posture. Most riders can hold a lot of tension and tightness in their shoulder and neck and often have really tight hip flexors which can affect mobility and range of motion through the pelvis area.
Often your work environment can have a huge impact on your rider posture to, but so to can incorrect posture whiling your riding. Dressage riders tend to concentrate a lot and this can lead us to look down and begin to round our shoulders and hollow our chest. Over time, this combined with a desk job can result in shortness of muscles poor shoulder mobility and can then often lead to injury or pain.
When riding correctly our body works hard to maintain a still and stable position, lots of muscles are involved in this process. The two main areas we want to focus on are the muscles affecting your shoulder girdle and then the muscles stabilizing your pelvis. Both of which are stabilized through a strong core foundation.
A poor posture and bad environment causes you to round your shoulders where pec minor grows tight, lats and in turn mid trapezius and rhomboids grow long and weak. The same to happens in the lower body when ITB, calves, quads and adductor get tight, this can affect the range of motion, stability and just general function of your pelvis area.
All these areas holding tension can then result in smaller muscles having to become postural muscles, which means they have to work harder. Often then leading to neck shoulder and upper back tension and lower back pain.
This is where foam rolling and stretching comes into play. Now I have talked all about stretching before, so today I wanted to discuss the self care practice of foam rolling.
So whats a foam roller?
If you have been into your fitness for some time now i’m sure you would of run into a foam roller or heard people talking about it. The truth is its gaining popularity, but its not new. Its been around for as long as I can remember, but people are becoming much more educated on its uses and its benefits it has on your body. So if you aren’t sure what they are, never fear I am going to catch you up to speed, so you to can start rolling around in your living room or at the gym with confidence.
Foam rolling is incredible for recovery and injury prevention, not to mention helping with mobility and improving muscle imbalances. I also love that it helps with detoxification and blood flow. One of the main reasons they are used is for self-myofascial release.
What is Self Myofascial Release?
This is basically a form of self massage. Myofascial release is the form of massage that uses long dragging strokes across the muscle tissue to allow the muscle to release and improve the mobility and range of motion of the joints and muscles. By using a foam roller you are able to get a similar response in the muscles and improve that range of motion at home. All though its not as good a real massage it can play a hugely important role in your mobility and self care routine.
Benefits Of Foam Rolling?
By including some foam rolling into your routine, you are helping the blood flow, which in turn aids in better detoxification. You are also able to work on any niggly spots of issues and increase better movement through the joints by releasing tight muscles and ligaments. This then decreases your risk of injury, improve recovery time and increases circulation. Not to mention just makes you feel great!
What Sort To Get
Keen to give it a go now? Well the great thing is they aren’t expensive, but there are a few different types out there. I prefer the one like the one I am using as the material being used is quite firm but not to hard. It also then has a huge amount of other uses which I will talk about in another post. So I suggest you get the 90cm one if you can afford it as you will be able to do more with it, otherwise the short 30cm one is a great start and you can get most exercises done with this length.
So now that you now all the benefits of foam rolling, why not give these exercises a go and notice how great it makes the body feel. Also remember often the tighter we are, the more intense the foam rolling will be. Also just like anything, the first time you do it, you will feel a little weird and not sure where to put your body parts. Don’t be put off by this, keep doing it and embrace a little discomfort for the greater good of your body. Your muscles and ligaments will be so grateful you put in the effort and the more you do it the better and more enjoyable it will get.
This area often get tight in runners, cyclists and those who are in office jobs. Often a nasty area to begin with, but focus on your breath and roll through it.
Start by placing the roller down by your knee with your leg on its side. Then bend your other leg over top and out in front. Then using your bent leg and arms for support roll up towards your hips. If you hit any tight or niggly spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your supporting leg. (this picture isn’t quite showing me completely on the side of leg, could be more on the side, see video at bottom)
These are often tight and can be a reflection of tight hips. Similar to ITB and common in runners, cyclists and those who are in office jobs.
Start by placing the roller down by your knee and bend your other leg out to the side. Then using your bent leg and arm for support roll up towards your hips. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your leg and hands.
These are often neglected, but play a really crucial role in stabilizing our knees and are often quite weak.
Start by placing the roller down by your knee on the inside this time and bend your other leg out to the side. Then using your bent leg and arm for support roll up towards your hips in small strokes. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your leg.
This is great for increasing mobility through the ankle and helping to ensure you are getting full range of motion through your joints, muscles and achilles.
Start by placing the roller down by your ankle and bend your other leg up and out in front. Then using your bent leg and arm for support roll up towards your knee. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your leg.
Hamstrings can often get really tight and stiff from running and even from sitting to much. So just like other muscles its really important you put the effort in to helping them perform at their best.
Start by placing the roller down by the back of your knee and bend your other leg over the top of the roller and out in front. Then using your bent leg and arm for support roll up towards your hips. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your leg.
I find this is often a really tight area in office workers, which can then affect shoulder range of motion and stability. Along with being tight it is often a weak area in a lot of females.
Start by placing the roller down on your side about half way up your ribs. Then roll towards your armpit with small strokes. Using your bent leg and other arm for support. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your leg.
Often a neglected area in females which can always do with more blood flow, mobility and release work.
Start by lying down on the ground and let your shoulder drape over the roller. Then using really small strokes rock back and forth. If you hit any tight spots hold there to allow it to release. If its to much, bring more weight into your other hand.
My absolute favourite way to finish any foam rolling session is right here. Great for your back, shoulders and chest mobility.
Simply lie yourself down the length of the roller, open your arms and ensure your head is resting on the roller.
Here is a short video demonstrating each of these moves to help you become more familiar with them.
To get yourself started make sure you download our free guide and get a good understanding of where to start when it comes to dressage rider fitness and overall performace.