Your friendly physical therapist-trainer combo here! If you take class or train with us at Mark Fisher Fitness, you know we love some foam rolling and using the lacrosse ball.
Chances are, however, that you probably roll the same things each time you do it. It’s habit! And likely the result of some “fitness dementia” at the end of the workout or a long work day.
I’ve listed out five muscles to check out on your next date with your foam roller or lacrosse ball. These muscles or muscle groups are some of the most commonly asked about muscles when I train Ninjas or work with clients as a PT.
Let me know how your rolling exploration goes!
5. Suboccipitals / The Back of Your Head!
The suboccipitals are located at the base of your skull, right under the “knot” on the back of your head called your occipital protuberance. Often, when these muscles get tight, a tension headache is the result with pain mainly in the forehead and temples.
To roll, place the roller or a larger water bottle that will not collapse in the nape of your neck. Roll toward the base of your skull, just before the “knot.” Freeze there and nod your head up and down, shake your head yes and no. Hold it when you find a tight area. Rinse and repeat for the other side.
4. Adductor Group / Inner Thighs!
The adductors are a group of muscles located in the inner thigh between the hip and knee and work to bring our legs together as well as stabilize our legs when we are performing squats, deadlifts, and anything that requires balance.
To roll, lay on your stomach with the roller parallel to your body. Place the leg closest to the roller on top of it in between your groin and knee. Roll from just above the knee up towards the groin. Repeat with the knee directly to the side of the hip. (Think about making a T with the roller and your thigh).
3. Upper Trapezius / Top of Your Shoulders!
The upper trapezius is the top third of the trapezius muscle and located at the top of your shoulders. It travels from the occipital protuberance at the back of the skull I mentioned above along the fascia of the back of the cervical spine and ends at the end of the collarbone.
Its main function is to elevate the scapula and assist in rotation of the scapula. We use the trapezius as a whole in many movements involving the upper body, including rows and pushups. However, we most often carry tension in the upper trap causing headaches and potential neck pain.
To roll the upper trap, I find it best to use a lacrosse ball and a corner or doorway. If you are rolling your right upper trap, face the corner with your left foot forward and hinge forward. You’ll place the lacrosse ball between your right shoulder and the wall. Your head should go to the left of the corner. Press forward into your left foot. The lacrosse ball can be placed anywhere from the base of your neck towards the bony part of your outer shoulder. It’s best to hold this position versus rolling around.
2. Gastroc Soleus / Calves!
Commonly referred to as your calf, the gastrocnemius and soleus are the two main muscles on the back of your lower leg. The gastroc soleus plantar flexes the foot, aka going up on the toes or “pointing” the foot.
Some may also consider the calf muscles to be postural muscles, helping to keep the ankle stable along with the muscles along with the peroneals, anterior and posterior tibialis.
The best way to roll the calves is to place the foam roller perpendicular to the lower legs, placing the biggest part of the muscle on the roller. Roll from right to left. Move the roller up or down a few centimeters and repeat.
1. Lateral Quadriceps / Quads!
Typically, we refer to the quads as a unit, however, they are in fact four separate muscles. One of these four is the lateral quadriceps or vastus lateralis and it is located on the outside front of the thigh, closest to the IT Band.
The quads work together to straighten the knee and also stabilize the patella while walking or running. Most often, the lateral quad is tighter and can tend to be overused, often due to our natural postural asymmetries as well as weakness in the medial quad and adductors.
To roll, start on your stomach with the roller perpendicular to your thighs. If rolling the left lateral quadriceps, roll to your left, so the roller is halfway between the front of your thigh and your IT band. Roll up and down on this angle. Repeat on the right side.
Happy Foam Rolling!
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