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5 ways to use a foam roller

Soothe sore muscles and release tension with a few simple foam roller moves for your back, glutes, calves and hips.

Illustrations: Sara Hingle

Tension builds up in our muscles for a variety of reasons including poor posture, incorrect exercise technique and general lifestyle factors. A foam roller is a simple piece of equipment that can be very effective to help release this tension. Here are five exercises that use a foam roller to target different parts of your body.

Mid to upper back

Use this exercise to ease out tight muscle and tissue across the thoracic spine. Hold the foam roller adjacent to your armpits and use your body to move the roller slowly down until you find a tight spot. Maintain pressure on the tight spot for at least 20 seconds.

Hip to knee

This exercise targets the iliotibial band that runs from the hip to the knee. Loosening up this band and its associated muscles will create better outcomes for walking, running and any activity using your hips and knees. Start with the foam roller at your knee and roll slowly upwards along the banded fascia until you find a tight spot. Hold it there for about 20 seconds and repeat on the other knee.

Calves and Achilles

Release calf tension with this simple move by placing the foam roller at your Achilles heel and roll it slowly up towards your knee until you find a tight spot. Once you do, hold it for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing it and swapping legs.

Glute max

Our glutes hold a lot tension and this exercise is a great way to ease out some of it. Start by leaning one edge of your buttock on the roller, cross that leg over your other knee, and then internally rotate the hip. Roll back and forth until you find a tight spot and hold the position until you feel the tension released. Repeat on the other side.

Hip flexors

This exercise targets a very tight band of muscle and connective tissue that can sometimes be hard to reach. Starting on one side of the body, put the foam roller on the pressure point where the leg joins the hip joint. Move slowly to find that little ball of tension and hold the foam roller on it for about 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the action to release all the knots and switch sides.

Foam roller tips provided by Jonathan Parkins, Personal Training, Melbourne.

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