Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Foam Rollers: Upper Body Self-Massage Techniques

Foam roller work is, to my surprise, one of the most rewarding, cost-effective and performance-enhancing practices for the active individual. I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure out what it was and how beneficial the results would prove. In as little as fifteen to thirty minutes per day, you can not only decrease your body pain but rejuvenate muscles and increase your range of motion. All it takes is a few simple exercises (and your massage therapist AND your body will be thanking you!). Below are two exercises for the upper body using a simple foam roller. Use them daily or when you feel you need relief.

Upper Body Foam Roller Technique 1: Full Back

Position a long foam roller (generally about 30”-36” in length and either 4” or 6” in diameter) on the floor and lay on top of it with the roller along your spine. Make sure your head is on top of the foam roller and not dangling off backwards. Perform a series of ten to twenty deep breaths, allowing your spine to relax into the roller. Then, gently and slowly roll the roller from side to side across your spine, accessing the spinal erector muscles. When you feel relaxed, slowly roll your body off the roller and onto a flat, carpeted surface or comfortable yoga mat and lay there for another ten to twenty deep breaths.

Upper Body Foam Roller Technique 2: Upper Back

Using a 12” long foam roller (either 4” or 6” diameter), position the roller on the floor underneath your neck – directly across your shoulder blades. The roller should not start on your neck. Take a series of ten deep breaths and allow your upper back to relax into the roller, using your body weight to apply more pressure. Slowly roll the roller from its starting place just below your neck down to your mid-back, stopping on areas that cause an ache (different from pain). When you approach those achy areas, gently and quickly roll the roller back and forth until the ache subsides. Finish the exercise by bringing the roller back to your start position and complete and additional ten to twenty deep breaths.

After you purchase your massage roller, you'll discover even more ways to relieve common aches and pains. My hamstrings for example, are always tight from sitting at a desk all week. With my foam roller under my desk, all I have to do is take five minutes to place it on the ground and roll my legs and glutes over it. Couple this with some standing twists, a few side stretches and bending down to touch my toes with my legs straight and not only are my hamstrings loose, but my energy levels skyrocket.

Nathan Joynt works with GaiamTV.com, streaming the web's best selection of award-winning health, fitness and yoga videos.