The creation of this DVD guide to stretching and foam rolling all of your major muscle groups in the ideal order was the response to the many requests that I received to create such a resource, based on the many pictorials and brief video clips I previously posted in our Stretching and Foam Rolling archive.
In this 20-minute color DVD, you'll find still photos and video clips that illustrate how to take your body through all of the major stretches and foam rolling exercises you can do to keep your body as healthy as your genetics will allow.
Please note that as you follow the DVD, you should have your remote ready to pause each new stretch and rolling exercise while you give them a try and discover how they best work for you.
If you don't yet have a foam roller, please feel free to have a look at the one that I had custom made for my clients here:
Premium EVA Foam Roller - 18" by 6"
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind whenever you partake in any stretching or foam rolling session:
New to foam rolling?
Try to stretch later in the afternoon or evening, when your blood circulation is at its peak. Blood circulation is at its worst first thing in the morning, a consequence of your heart not having to work very hard in the absence of significant gravitational force while you are sleeping in a horizontal position. As you go about your daily activities, your blood circulation naturally improves as your heart begins working harder.
If possible, save intense stretching sessions, like a yoga class, for after you have done a good warm up. The more you exercise or warm up before you stretch, the more blood flow your muscles will have, which decreases their risk of suffering a strain or tear. Slow and gentle foam rolling can actually serve as a solid warm up to stretching sessions.
Do not bounce as you stretch. Move your body slowly and gradually into a position that allows you to feel a solid stretch in the target muscle, then hold this position and focus on keeping your breathing steady.
Never stop breathing while you stretch or foam roll. If you find yourself holding your breath on a regular basis during stretching and rolling sessions, consider this a sign that you are putting too much stress on your tissues. and ease back on the intensity.
Where applicable, be sure to stretch and foam roll both sides of your body to promote good overall symmetry.
The idea is simple enough: Using your own body weight and agility, you roll specific muscle groups against a firm foam roller to mimic a deep, gliding massage.
With a foam roller, you can control how much pressure you apply to the tissues that you're working on, and you can locate and focus on areas that are problematic.
I've long been a fan of soft tissue therapies like deep tissue massage, myofascial rolling
, and active release technique (ART), and I continue to use and recommend these therapies in many situations. I think of foam rolling as the perfect adjunct to all such therapies. And because you can use a foam roller just about anywhere, you can experience terrific health gains in a relatively short period of time.
As I see it, the main benefits of foam rolling are as follows:
Improved blood circulation throughout your skin, fascia, muscles, and even tendons and ligaments where you can access them with a foam roller.
Through improved blood circulation, more efficient exchange of nutrients and waste products at a cellular level, leading to better overall cellular function and inter-cellular communication.
Lengthening of short (tight) muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Some muscles (like hip flexors) and ligaments (iliotibial band) are prone to shortening, and are difficult to effectively stretch and apply therapeutic pressure to using standard massage and trigger point therapy techniques. But with a foam roller, you can apply deep pressure massage to such areas and lengthen shortened tissues, thereby preventing physical imbalances that can predispose you to injury.
Promotion of optimal spinal range of motion. You can accomplish this by slowly rolling your spine against a foam roller and pausing whenever you feel restrictions to allow your joints and surrounding tissues to stretch.
Beyond using a foam roller as a therapeutic tool, you can also use it for a variety of exercises. It's especially useful for a number of core-strengthening and stabilizing postures and movements.
When we experience physical health challenges like pain and stiffness around weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, and spinal joints), for many of us, the instinct is to get some sort of treatment - if not a conventional pain killer or some invasive surgical procedure, then at least some alternative therapy like acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, ultrasound, laser, or electrical stimulation.
A less obvious and often times more effective approach is to work at improving blood circulation around the problematic area through deep pressure work and dedicating oneself to stretching the muscles and ligaments around the affected joints.
Sometimes, short/tight muscles and ligaments are the root cause of a joint region becoming dysfunctional and producing pain and stiffness.
This is not to say that various therapies can't be helpful; they can usually help in some way, though to what degree, no one can know for sure.
My point is to consider addressing physical injuries and breakdowns with a dedicated program of soft tissue work and stretching - work that you do multiple times daily on your own. I'm finding more and more that actively working to address physical health challenges in this way can be the magic bullet that many often seek when they're physically distressed.
This must makes sense, doesn't it? That you'll make more gains working on a problematic area several times a day than you will getting just one, two, or three treatment sessions per week. Of course, it may be ideal to have both going on when you have an injury, with the work you do on your own supporting the work of a skilled and experienced health practitioner.
Bottom line: foam rolling can be a huge part of any effective program of self-applied deep pressure work and stretching.
P.S. If you don't yet have a foam roller, you can take a look at the one that I had custom made for my clients here:
Premium EVA Foam Roller - 18" by 6"
We recommend this DVD as an adjunct to our Premium EVA Foam Roller. We hope that you find these resources to be helpful.
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