The Athlete’s Guide to Foam Rolling

Strength and conditioning expert Menachem Brodie explains why and how you should use foam rolling to improve recovery.

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With the help of strength and conditioning expert Menachem Brodie, we present our comprehensive guide to foam rolling.

Foam rolling is often overlooked as part of the recovery process. However, in this video Menachem explains why and how you can complete a structured foam rolling routine to maximize the benefits (and get the most from the roller collecting dust in the corner of your living room).

Menachem stresses that, in general, you should do no more than 30 seconds per position, except during the thoracic extension, the Y to W movement, and “Reach, Roll, Lift” the details of which are contained in the video.

Importantly, in total you should do no more than 6-8 minutes of foam rolling per day. That’s because the act of foam rolling does not address any underlying instabilities and imbalances that may be causing the issues at your joints and in muscles. It is merely a small tool, in what should be a much larger toolbox, for properly treating problem areas.

Video Transcript

Foam Rolling with Menachem Brodie-2

Ryan Kohler 0:00

Hey everybody, welcome to Fast Talk Labs. Foam rolling is an often overlooked piece of the recovery process. If you have that foam roller sitting in the corner collecting dust, and you’re not really sure what to do with it, we have Menachem Brodie here all the way over in Israel, who’s going to give us a structured foam rolling routine to help you improve your recovery.

Ryan Kohler 0:28

Welcome to fast health laboratories, your source for the science of endurance performance.

Intro to Foam Rolling

Menachem Brodie 0:38

Hey, I am Menachem Brodie leading strength coach for a cyclist and triathletes and we are here today at the Fast Talk Laboratories to talk about foam rolling. Before we get into today’s video and explanation of how you should be doing your foam rolling differently, I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page. And that is, when it comes to understanding why foam rolling works, we actually don’t really know. So there’s a lot of different research out there, but essentially it’s extremely inconclusive as to why foam rolling works. But the reasonable thing to do in this case is, well we know it works and it helps us when we do it correctly and in the right amounts. So let’s do it and not worry about the why and let science catch up and figure that out. And maybe we’ll never understand and that’s totally cool. Now when it comes to foam rolling, a lot of us tend to think of it as getting on and just rolling until the muscle relaxes and that actually creates a much bigger problem than it does a solution. Now tell me if this sounds familiar, because I know what happened to me when I first discovered the foam roller. That is, number one, you’ve got to find the foam roller that is right for you. So there’s the white ones which are very soft and squishy, the blue ones which are kind of medium, and then the black ones which are very dense. So when I first started foam rolling, I got the black one, that’s what the gym had and I nearly jumped through the roof. So if the foam roller is too soft or too hard, that’s going to create a problem. You’re not going to get the desired results out of your foam rolling we want just enough discomfort and it is discomfort, not pain to go through. Because if you’re sitting there and you’re tensing all you’re muscles and saying, “Oh, the foam rolling is really going to help me” that’s not going to be the case. Number two is when it comes to our foam rolling, we want to make sure we’re doing it in small consistent amounts. I myself very guilty of this when I had my hip injury many, many years ago, and that the physical therapist told me, “Hey, get onto the foam roller each day before you want to ride.” And what I did is I wound up getting on the foam roller for a half hour saying, “Wow, everything feels amazing,” being able to ride my bike and then the next morning go, “Wow, that ride really messed up my my hip again.” And in fact, I learned the hard way that is not the case it was actually I was doing way too much foam rolling. So as you’ll see in the video today, Ryan spends a good minute to two minutes a little bit longer for each of them. But that’s because we’re here to explain the exercise to you and show you how to do it properly. When you’re doing this on your own no longer than 30 seconds a spot. And in total, all of your foam rolling for a day should last no longer than six to eight minutes. If you’re on the foam roller longer than six to eight minutes, you need to get a new hobby. It means you’re spending too much time because, number three, the foam roller does not help us address the instabilities or the imbalances that are happening at those different joints. The foam roller is simply a very small tool in a very big toolbox or what should be a big toolbox, which will allow you to properly treat the area. So first, we gain a little bit of range of motion by relaxing the muscle. And then as you’ll see at the end of today, you have to fire those muscles back up because a muscle is going to tighten down for one of three reasons and these three reasons are its primary jobs. Number one, for muscle as it comes to movement. Number one is to protect a joint. So if a joint is at risk for injury, our body is way smarter than we are. So the body is going to shut down the muscle to protect the joint from getting injured. You can outrun a lion if your knee is a little bit bum but if your hip gets broken, you’re in big, big trouble so the muscles aren’t going to shut down. So number one job of muscle when it comes to movement is to protect the joint. The number two job of a muscle is to stabilize the joint while on adjacent joint move. So just as I’m lifting my arm up here, my job of my bicep is to stabilize the rest of my arm while my shoulder moves. So number one protected joint number two, stabilize the joint while in adjacent joint moves. Job number three is the one we all think about and that is to move a joint. Anybody else have a ticket to the gun show? Well, that’s kind of bad. Well, I’m a cyclist, who cares?

Menachem Brodie 4:47

But these are the three jobs and when it comes to foam rolling we really want to think about what exactly is it that we need to get out of this to help us in the long term firm performance and that’s where the foam rolling you’re about to learn here is going to be very different than anything else that you’ve learned before. A lot of people just jump on the foam roller, roll back and forth for the primary muscles, usually it’s the hamstrings. Well, there’s actually a rhyme and reason for everything we do. Just like you can have the ingredients for a fantastic recipe. Let’s say, Your aunt Betty’s famous double chocolate mousse cake. You can have all of the ingredients there but if you don’t put them in in the right order, it’s not going to come out well. And you’re sitting there scratching your head going well, I don’t understand why it’s not coming out the ingredients were right. It’s because the order of operations matters. So here today, we’re going to start from the bottom up. We’re going to start at the Achilles tendon work through the calves, and then work our way up to the top of the head. Now when I work with cyclists and triathletes, I work from the bottom up because through the last 18 years or so I found that’s what works best for these lower body oriented athletes. Now, when it comes to my professional and amateur basketball players, we tend to work from the top down. For whatever reason, that seems to be what works best for them. So choose either top or bottom I would recommend giving at least a month for how we do it here because there is a lot of effort, and a lot of time, and a lot of athletes that have been through here at HVT to get to what you’re going to see here. Now the last thing before we jump into the exercises for today is to note that we are changing how you’re doing it. So please come to this with a very open mind. In order to get better results, oftentimes we have to go with something that’s a little counterintuitive. So in this case, we’re going to be adding a little bit of movement for some things, and others we’re going to have certain parts of the body not move. And that may prove to be very challenging to you, because you haven’t created that skill. To be able to control these muscles to allow them to produce stiffness and control movement. That’s going to be one of the primary benefits that you’ll gain out of the foam rolling. In that case, it’s not going to be the improved range of motion or improved suppleness of the muscles. In fact, it will be your mind muscle connection to be able to get stiffness where you need it and movement or you need that. Which is a fantastic skill to have. Now let’s get over into today’s exercises, we’re going to look at the Achilles and the calf first.

How to Foam Roll each part of the Body

Rolling out the Achilles and Calves

Menachem Brodie 7:21

Our first thought for foam rolling is going to be the calves we’re going to start from the bottom and work our way up through the body. This is something that I found over my years with cyclists and triathletes, tend to give us a really good insight as to where the athlete is on that day. Some of the basketball players I work with, professional and amateur, will start from the top down. It all depends on the primary movers or the prime focus of that sport. I found that again, cyclists and triathletes we do best starting from the bottom up. Let’s take a look at how we’re going to change how you’re foam rolling your calves. Because a lot of you just kind of throw your feet up over on the foam roller and roll back and forth, sit on the tight spot for a couple seconds and then move on. But we’re going to change that and floss the muscle a little bit. And you’re going to see that a couple times here today. So let’s take a look at the foam rolling for the calves itself and how we’re going to change that for you. We’re going to start off with the foam roller just above the ankle. So we want to make sure it’s right in that space where you can relax the ankle and let it kind of roll down. From there, we’re actually going to bring the foam roller up to the base of the calf. Now Ryan brought it up pretty quickly. But what we want to do is we actually want to stay down there with the ankles and kind of flex forward and back just a little bit with the toes and see if there’s any tension in through the Achilles there. Now some of you may find that the calf start lower down than where we saw Ryan. We want to be where the bigger Meteor outside muscle, the gastrocnemius kind of ends in that diamond on the back of your calf, we want to start a little bit further down where the soleus the muscle underneath begins. So that’s exactly where he is. He’s right at the junction of those two muscles. And he’s just going back and forth, supporting himself on his hands. Rolling back and forth just over that junction where the gastrocnemius and the soloists are. The reason we’re doing that is those two muscles lay on top of one another. And what we’re looking to do is get them to kind of move a little bit better. You’ll notice his toes are pointed up towards his shins. This is to put some tension in those muscles. But again, if you feel that there’s a little bit of tension there, you can let those toes kind of point down once you find that spot. And once you’ve done 10 to 15 rounds of that going back and forth, we’re going to go to single leg and you’ll notice that he has his left leg down and he has his right leg over. He’s right at that junction where the legs are crossing one another and he’s pushing down and rolling side to side. This is going to allow you to find any type of knots on one side of the muscle or the other. If you find a knot you’re going to sit there for about 10 seconds as he’s doing here. Now I know this can be difficult on the hands. So you may find that you need to rest your butt on the ground, as opposed to letting it hover like that because of the shoulders or the neck. That’s totally okay. After about 10 seconds and some nice slow deep breaths in through the nose out through the mouth. We want to dorsiflex and plantarflex the toes as he’s doing here. And what this is doing is flossing the muscle, you’ll notice that that’s affecting how his knee is acting as well. He’s getting a little bit of flexion in through the knee as he brings the toes up. That’s because those muscles of the calf cross over onto the upper side, the lower side of the upper leg, excuse me. It just allows us to kind of get a better feel and sensation of how those calf muscles are affecting that knee. Now once he finished that first bite, you notice that he dropped his butt down to the floor that takes pressure off the shoulders, he moved back to that original spot where we had both legs on the foam roller, and now he’s actually going through and holding him through a tight spot on that leg. So this is the foam rolling for the calves. You would obviously repeat on the other side. So all in all this is going to run about a minute and a half. So 30 seconds, both legs together. 30 seconds for the right leg, 30 seconds for the left leg, you want a little bit longer closer to 45. But each one of these is three different exercises really. Ao we can do up to a minute, a minute and a half each spot. But again, we want just enough where you’re starting to feel that muscle relax a little bit we don’t want to have you on the foam roller and really like digging into it. It starts to release or let’s say 1015 seconds at most. And then you’re on to the next portion. Let’s take a look at our next exercise.

Rolling out the Shins

Menachem Brodie 11:30

Our next station is going to be the shins. Now the shins are an area that not a lot of people know you can foam roll, but there is a muscle there. The anterior tibialis muscle, which really helps you to be able to pull the toes up. And that’s really important if you’re looking for a highly efficient and effective pedal stroke being able to come over that 12 o’clock position with an almost neutral bottom of the foot to be able to push from about 11 o’clock over and down. A lot of us tend to let the foot come up and then stomped down and kind of inkling it’s called. That’s something we actually want to avoid. But this muscle tends to get very tight and the muscles of the lower leg are a lot smaller than the upper leg muscles. When we get into strength training, we do a lot of stuff to help them be able to move better, to get better and better movement of the bones, of the foot, and the ankle, and the shin. But that’s for another video. So let’s take a look at what the foam rolling for the shins looks like. Ryan starting off here with a foam roller just below the bump on the front of his chin or just below the bone. And as he starting off, you’ll notice he’s in a quadruped head position. His hands are directly underneath his shoulders, and he’s doing a little bit more of an advanced variation where he’s starting with the foam roller and the knees back behind the hips. Ideally we can start here with the knees directly underneath the hips, that’s okay either way. If you have a strong core and you don’t feel your back sagging, you can certainly start there. Now the movement itself is going to be from the hip, bringing the knees up towards the hands as you go through. You’ll notice that his toes are pointed behind him, that’s allowing the muscle to lengthen, so we’re able to get a little bit more down into the belly of that muscle. Now as he’s coming up and down when he brings his legs back, he’s gonna have to use his midsection or his full 360 degree abdominal brace to stabilize these things. We don’t want to feel any type of tightness or discomfort in through the front of the shin or into the lower back. So those are two really important things because this can be very painful. It’s not an area that a lot of people have done, but we want to move relatively smoothly forward and back through that motion. So again, if you feel that there’s a little bit of tension in your lower back there, the best thing to do is just start off with the knees directly underneath the hips and the foam roller at the same starting position. And then bring those knees up towards your hands, as you roll back and forth about 15 times maximum. This is going to be one that’s 30 seconds or so. If you’d like you can play with the toes, flexing them and extending them after you’ve gone through about 10 times to see how that feels. But this is how we’re going to do the foam rolling for the shins.

Rolling out the Glutes

Menachem Brodie 14:10

As we get into our next spot a lot of you are going to be very surprised in that we are actually skipping the hamstrings. One of the all time favorites of every cyclist and triathlete I’ve ever worked with are the hamstrings, they get so tight. Well a lot of this has to do with the fact that the glutes get shut down because of our positioning on the bike. There is a very large focus on the glutes, the glutes, the glutes these days and yes, even on my YouTube channel I talk about the glutes and quite a number of videos. I think it’s like nine or 10 at this point of the filming here today. But the glutes are only a small portion of the whole equation as you’ll see because the glutes act to extend the knee, as well as to extend the hip, as well as to help tie in with the midsection the extra oblique, the glutes, and the serratus anterior muscle, you’re going to hear about here a little bit later in our foam rolling. These muscles all need to be able to work together so they need to be fast and loose and loose and fast. So our next spot is not the hamstrings, but it is the glute med max. So the glute maximus, everybody knows that the glute med sits just on the side underneath the glute max. And this muscle is responsible for taking that hand or that leg as I use my hand out away from midline and helps kind of hike that hip up a little bit, as you go through movements. So this is a really important muscle for us to be able to release a little bit. Some of you may find when you put your bib shorts on, you have a little divot on the side of your butt. And what this is, is the glute med most likely most of the time but not always is underdeveloped and the glute med, max needs some attention to grow to be able to better do their job, but we’ll save that for another video. Let’s take a look at how to foam roll your glute med. As you’ll notice here, Ryan is set up on the floor he’s sitting with the foam roller directly underneath his sit bones just as he would for riding the bike. Now his feet are both flat on the ground, His hands are on the ground behind him in a fist. This is to help him take the pressure off of his wrists. Now from here, what he’s going to do is take one foot over and across. Now I know some of you can’t get the feet to cross like that, that’s okay. Do the best you can maybe you need to extend one leg and cross one leg over the other. But what we want to do is try and get a little bit of space in through that hip joint to allow us to get into the glute med. You’ll notice Ryan has turned towards us a little bit and it’s kind of tucked his hip under that glute Meade muscle is going to be just below your belt line, on the oblique angle on the outside of your glutes. So it’s not directly in the back, it’s not directly in the front, it’s right at the side. And that’s where we have that foot one over the other the ankle on top of the knee. And from here, he’s just doing very small movements back and forth. And you can’t really see it, but he’s feeling a little bit something there. It’s not too bad, we do want to get a little bit more in if you are a little bit more limber. We’ll move to this position here where you have the elbow on the ground, and you’re really putting much more force. But for many of us beginning that first position with both hands behind us is more than enough. Again, we don’t want to be jumping off the foam roller because of how much pain or discomfort we’re in. So as Ryan is going through here, you notice that he’s slowing down he’s trying to find the tight spot when he finds the tight spot when you want to do is take a deep breath in through the nose and then out through the mouth. And as you’re breathing out through the mouth, you want to think about those muscles relaxing as you’re going through that breath out. Three to four breaths aside should be more than enough. You’ll notice this is a 42nd ish clip. And Ryan has done a great job of releasing just enough. When you’re done with one side, go ahead and move over to the next. From there, we’ll move on to our next spot for foam rolling.

Rolling out the Chest

Menachem Brodie 18:00

Our next exercise is probably going to surprise many of you as we’re not using the foam roller directly on the muscles that we’re looking to open, as well as the last exercise that we’re going to have here in our series. One of the insider and expert tips, if you will for foam rolling is that we need to get the muscles to do a better job of coordinating with one another. Now if any of you have seen the bodies exercise, not the bodies exercise, the body exhibit. When we go through exercises, a lot of the muscles in the upper body are directly related to the lower body. And we can see this very clearly in that exhibit. I know there’s some controversy around it. But that aside, just looking at how the different facial systems in the body work now if you want to learn more about this, Thomas Myers has a great book called, The Anatomy Trains. It is a textbook but he gets into all of the major meridians in the body for the facial system and you could do a toe geek out on that. But for today for your foam rolling what I’d like for you to know is that the Y to W foam rolling chest opener is a movement which is going to expose tightness. It’s going to show us what your breathing posture is going to look like on the bike when you’re under duress as well as it’s going to tell us how is your core and your core all the muscles between your neck your elbows and your knees are they able to coordinate together. The core is not your stomach that is just your stomach or your midsection. The 360 degree abdominal brace is going to need to be called on in order to do this exercise properly. Let’s take a look at how to do this. You’ll notice Ryan here is sitting on the edge of the or the bottom of the foam roller and the foam roller is vertical. So you’re going to need three foot or one meter foam roller depending on where in the world you are, three feets in the US, right? So everywhere else one meter. Now from here he’s going to lay back. You’ll notice that the back of his head is supported by the foam roller for those of you who are taller or have longer torsos. You may need to put a pillow back there but we want to make sure that foam roller is along all of the spine and that your hips and your head are all supported. You’re gonna start off in a zombie position with your arms straight ahead with a neutral lower back position. So we don’t want to be overarched, we don’t want to be flat. Bracing the midsection just gently enough, you’re gonna allow the hands to float overhead until you feel a chest stretch. And you’ll notice here that Ryan’s arms are out to the side almost between a Y and a T, but his elbows are straight. That is very important, we want to make sure that the elbows are straight. As you do this, you’re going to take a deep breath in through the nose out through the mouth. You’ll do three of those in that position, for about 15 seconds. The breathing really helps us mobilize the ribs, which should move from both the sternum and from a longer insertion point at the spine. And then from there after the third breath, as Ryan’s doing here, you’re going to try and pull the elbows down to your side, but try and keep the hand back towards the ground and external rotations. You’ll notice as Ryan’s coming down, he’s kind of letting the hand float forward. And this is indicative of a tight pectoralis minor, tight shoulder girdle. That can really affect you on the bike and your ability to reach up overhead. So as you go through here, for the Y to W, you’ll go through about five to seven of these. You’ll also notice that as he’s bringing those elbows down, he’s keeping his midsection brace. So he’s not letting his ribs pop up off of the foam roller as he’s coming down where he’s staying neutral, as opposed to popping the chest up. So you’re getting a full 360 degree abdominal brace, which really helps you to be able to begin to train the core again, all the muscles between your neck, your elbows and your knees, to work together. Now this exercise, you may want to do two sets of these, where you separate them in between this exercise and the next one. But don’t overdo it doing more and more and more is not the way. No more than five to eight repetitions of the Y to W and no more than three breaths in this position. Again, muscle has three jobs in a joint and number one is to protect a joint. So we need to make sure that we’re respecting the body and not pushing it to its limits. After you’re done with this, we’ll move on to our next foam rolling exercise.

Rolling out the hips

Menachem Brodie 22:13

Our next spot is a favorite for cyclists and triathletes, but notice this is coming way later in our order here. Weare not going to right to the trouble spot because there is an order that we have to go through. In order to program the body to take the tension out and to allow us to gain better muscular control and be able to get far more out of our foam rolling than just relaxing the muscles. So we’ve already gone through the shins, the calves, the groove med, and then we went right up and we went to the Y to W on the foam roller for the chest, and that allows us to tap into the full 360 degree abdominal brace. And now, only now are we coming back to the rectus femoris. And we’re going to do it very differently than what most of you do. You’ll notice that we switched from the one meter or three foot long foam roller, to the one foot or a third of a meter. Let’s say what is it, 20-28 centimeters, something like that. It’s a much shorter foam roller. Now if you only have one foam roller at home, that’s totally fine, you can still use the longer one. All you’ll do, instead of having the small one underneath, you’re just going to move the excess of the foam roller out away from your midline and gentlemen pay special attention here. We want to protect the family jewls. Not a fun experience to have but move that foam roller all the way over to the side. Now let’s take a look at how Ryan does this exercise for you to learn how to do it differently. As we see here, Ryan is starting with that smaller, shorter, one foot foam roller. He has it directly just below the bone on the front of the hip. And this is really important. You can’t see it on this side but his left knee is down on the ground. So his hips are kind of tilted towards us so we can see both hips and he’s just now extended the knee. Now he’s supporting himself on his elbows. He’s bracing that midsection and from here he’s going to roll down about the width of your palm. So all four fingers he’s rolling down and that’s going to be where we’re actually going to start the foam rolling itself. So you’ll have to kind of move the hips you know roll them side to side a little bit using that left leg or off leg if you’re doing in this position and find the tight spot. Now once you’ve done that two or three breaths in through the nose out through the mouth. Then you’re going to brace the entire 360 midsection and now you’re going to flex and extend as we see Ryan doing here trying to pull his heel towards this butt. This is not a very comfortable move for a lot of us you’re going to feel those hamstrings… some of you will get cramps the first time and go woah I can’t do this. That’s a big sign that we have a lot of work to do for the hamstrings and glutes to be able to stabilize your hips and some work to do on the 360 degree abdominal brace. So if you can’t do the hamstring curls without actual cramping up, some of you may feel like you’re going to cramp up, just go ahead and hold that position and move a little side to side as you’re going through that foam rolling and just kind of work that knot just a little bit, and then you can go down. Instead of flexing extending, you can just hold that position and then after you’re done, roll back to the starting position on just below the bone on the front of your hip called the ASIS, and then you’ll switch sides.

Rolling out the Lats

Menachem Brodie 25:29

Our next exercise is going to be foam rolling the lats. Now this is coming after we’ve done the Y to W, and we’ve done the rectus femuris. So we went from going through the glute med on the back, then we tied the full 360 degree core together through the Y to W and the whole 360 degree abdominal brace the core everything between your elbows and knees, and then we went to the rectus femoris. So keep in mind that the rectus femoris is only done the front of the thigh is only done after we’ve released the glutes and fired up the core and taken some stress out of the chest. This is really important. I cannot stress enough if you skip and do these out of order, it’s not going to have the same effect as intended. So it’s just like baking a cake, you put the ingredients in the wrong order, it’s going to come out very different than what you intended, or that your aunt Lucy made for you, which was delicious, but your just doesn’t taste that good. Now let’s take a look at the foam rolling for the lats. Now this exercise is something that’s very different than what most of you are used to. But let’s learn how to do this because the lats tend to get a lot of stress on the bike from being in that riding position. So as we see here, Ryan is laying on his side with the foam roller directly underneath his armpit. Now he’s going to be right in that nook right between the back of the shoulder and the and the big muscle or the small muscle there. You’ll notice that his hand is a little bit forward towards us. That’s common for cyclists and also for triathletes as the lats tend to get very tight. So if that’s the most you can get without cranking on your back, that’s okay. You’re going to start there, you will take one foot up and forward so that the foot is flat on the ground. Now that foot is going to do the driving for the exercise itself, very important. You’ll notice that Ryan’s hand that’s overhead is relaxed, he’s using his opposite hand to push on the floor and help him to be able to move. Now some people find putting the hand on the foam roller and manually moving the foam roller helps him a little bit. But it’s really important to keep that hand that’s extended, extended and relaxed. So we need to open up that muscle. Now you’ll notice Ryan’s not that comfortable here. He’s in a little bit of hurt, pain, and he’s got a good poker face. So if you ever invites you to game poker, don’t take him up on it. Now, what he’s done is he’s rolled backwards just a little bit. By rolling back we’re getting into the insertion of the lat here or the muscle itself and he’s able to stay off of the ribs. We never want to be rolling all the ribs themselves. It would always be back a little bit more a little bit of an oblique angle. So if this is the the floor, we’re rolling, and we’re back just a little bit opening up and you can also roll forward a little bit. But we never want to come further down than about halfway down your ribs as the bottom two ribs are what are called floating ribs. They don’t actually attach to your sternum to your breastbone, and we want to make sure we’re not putting the foam roller and putting pressure there because that’s not going to be very good. And you’ll notice that Ryan rolled back took a couple breaths in through the nose, out through a relaxed jaw or a jaw if you will, and then he stayed there for two or three and then he moved a little bit more. So this is how you foam roll the lats. These are going to be super tight for most of you. But again, a muscle has three jobs in the body and number one is to protect the joints. So in this case, the lats are trying to do their job of protecting our shoulders and our spine a little bit as we were in that riding position, with our hands down on the handlebars a lot. So be very gentle with these. Don’t be overzealous, just 30 seconds, just two maybe, no just two spots, not even three, just two spots if you’re really tight. Its going to take some time to get those muscles to relax and you’re going to find it’s hard. If you’re getting pressure back there, it’s really hard to keep that arm nice and relaxed. So this is the foam rolling for the lats. Now let’s move on to our next position.

Using Thoracic Extension

Menachem Brodie 29:24

Our next to last move is going to be one that many of you may have seen or are currently doing. But we’re going to give you the expert insights and a couple, simple corrections to how you’re doing this to protect your lower back and help you get more out of this Now, keep in mind that as we’re getting into this thoracic extension with the foam roller, two major things after the age of about 35 a lot of the postural changes in our daily habits are going to have taken an effect on the body. That means that this exercise may be a no, no. Definitely not for three or four breaths per station for many of you because you’re not going to feel comfortable with this. If at any point you’re feeling uncomfortable, especially if you’re having sharp pain, numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, skip the exercise, cut it immediately, and then schedule an appointment with a local physical therapist to be assessed to see what’s going on. Now that being said, let’s look at the foam roller thoracic extension. And a couple of mistakes that a lot of people make that can have a huge impact on whether you get what you want out of this exercise or not. Now notice here, Ryan is starting off with the foam roller at the base of his shoulder blades. The bottom of the point of his shoulder blade, that is the lowest down that this foam roller is ever going to go for this exercise, his feet are flat on the floor, his knees are bent, he’s supporting his weight with his butt on the ground, another mistake. Now from there, he’s taking his hands clasping them behind his head, bringing them so that he’s holding his head up, bringing the elbows in very close. Now this is very important, a lot of people do it here. You’re losing what we’re looking for out of this exercise if you’re keeping those elbows out. Now once you have that position, you’re going to take three deep breaths in through the nose, feeling the mid back and bringing the ribs up and out and then breathe out through the mouth, allowing yourself to melt back on the foam roller. So what I’d like for you to think about is that as you’re going through this range of motion. Now this is a lower back model, so just keep in mind that we’re working on the upper back. Never do this exercise for the lower back. We’re getting thoracic extension, so we’re getting you to bring, let’s bring this a little bit closer there, we’re getting you to get extension. Again, this is a lower back model. Let’s look at one that doesn’t have the sacred minute so that you can actually see what we are looking for. Now again, for those anatomy folks out there, this is again, a lumbar model, but just pretend with me that this is your upper back. What we’re looking for out of this is we want you to get thoracic extension. So we’re opening up the ability of the spine to move backwards. Now, notice here these can touch. Okay, so we’re not going super crazy. Again, this is a lumbar model, not a surgical model or thoracic model. They’re much smaller for that part of the back the upper and mid back much smaller. But this is why we never want to foam roll our lower back because there’s not a lot of space there. But what we’re looking for is to get movement in through those spinal discs essentially which we should have, the upper and mid back, the thorax is made for extension and rotation as we come through. And we’re not going to get into why that model is not what you should be thinking of necessarily, but just keep in mind the general concept. We want to try and keep the hand the hands clasped together, interlace the fingers, elbows close together, and then we’re moving back. Now back to Ryan, we’re about 30 seconds into this. You’ll notice that he’s relaxing as he goes through this, deep breath in through the nose out through the mouth, and he’s thinking about kind of melting back. Now once he’s done with that third breath, he’s gonna sniff air in through the nose, he’s going to come back towards that starting position a little bit, and then he’s going to roll down the foam roller right there. And then he’s going to repeat so we’re doing three breaths in the exact same position in through the nose, filling the mid back, out three breaths like that, and then he’s going to move about two to four inches up from there. Now the one thing we want to make sure we do at the end, sniff air, come back up to that starting position and then roll down so we don’t want to finish in this position. We want to sniff hair, come back up and then move down in the foam roller. So that’s the foam roller thoracic extension. Make sure that you’re allowing the head to relax. So again, don’t let the elbows flare out. I know this is a lot of don’ts. But these are common mistakes that I need to iron home or hit home for each of you because those mistakes, change the exercise completely. So step one foam roller, no lower than the bottom of the shoulder blade. Step number two, interlace the fingers, place the back of the occiput. That’s where your hands are not down here. Let the head be your counterweight, three, keep those elbows in. Don’t let them flare out for a deep breath in through the nose, out through the mouth. Stay in that position as you breathe out. You’re letting the head act as the counterbalance.

Menachem Brodie 34:24

Keeping a full 360 degree brace at the end of the third one for that posture that positions sniff air, come back up, roll down two inches with the foam roller and then repeat again. You’ll have three stations for those of you who have good range of motion and good mobility and two stations for those who don’t. Lastly, let’s move on to our last exercise for foam rolling which actually is not going to use the foam roller at all. But it’s going to allow you to tackle a big weak point that a lot of cyclists have.

Menachem Brodie 35:01

So in order for us to get the most out of our foam rolling, we have to go over and activate those muscles in the middle of the back the mid traps. What we’re going to do next is going to be an exercise that’s going to help you learn a better squatting position, help you get into thoracic extension, help you to strengthen and better balance the muscles of the mid back, as well as help you feel better, and breathe better on the bike. So if you will, it’s a four factor when that exercise is the reach, roll, lift. Now pay attention to how this is done because the positioning and getting the right muscles to fire and going through the range of motion that only you have, is going to make a biggest difference. As you’ll notice here, Ryan is starting off in a quadruped position. Now you’ll notice he’s rounded in through the mid back. This is common for a lot of cyclists, and I’m sure he was on the bike beforehand. What we want to try and do in this position is make sure that we are finding a neutral spine position. So keeping the elbows flat on the ground, keeping the knees a little bit wider than shoulder width. We’re going to rock back and forth trying to keep spine neutral. So you’ll notice he rounded his back there, we want to try and find where you’re rocking back and forth without any type of rounding or extension in through the lower back. Now from there, he’s going to slide his hands up and forward and out a little bit. So we want to come up and forward and out we don’t want to come straight overhead. By coming up and forward and out, you’re actually opening up the space in through the shoulder. If you come up straight ahead, what that’s going to do is actually close the shoulder joint, especially the clavicle in front. This makes this exercise a whole lot harder. And that’s not the point of where we are right now we really want to make sure that we’re setting you up to succeed. So even out to here, if you notice it’s almost out to the side, as long as you’re able to get that elbow mostly extended and not close the space between your shoulder and your ear, you’re okay for this. So once Ryan reaches and up overhead, then we’re going to do the next part and that is roll. He’s going to keep his Pinkie on the floor, roll his palm facing up, and then he’s going to lift using the muscles in the middle of his back. If possible, you should do this with a slightly bent elbow or a straight elbow. Why do we see slightly bent, because most cyclists are going to try and lift like this. And that’s not what we’re looking for. If you can’t extend the elbow and lift, reach as far as you can, roll that arm open, and then think about firing that muscle in the middle of the back right at the bottom of the fast labs logo on his shirt. You’ll notice as he goes through, like I said, He’s been on that elbow more. That’s not rehearsed. That’s just how it goes. Because I’ve been doing this for very many years. Now the other thing you’ll notice is that he’s starting to lose his 360 degree abdominal brace a little bit. This is where you’d want to stop and pause with the elbow back underneath the shoulder. And then re brace. This is really important for this exercise, as it’s going to allow you to get far more out of it in that you’re teaching and tuning the full 360 degree abdominal brace a to keep you in neutral position. Now of course in this position, we want to try and get you away from that writing position of being rounded. And instead think about pulling the chest up a little bit, and pretend as if there’s a string at the top of your head pulling you long. Or for those of you who are old enough to remember this walking with a book on top of your head, we want to be nice and long, down low. And what that’s going to do is help get you into thoracic extension. And then it’s up to you to learn the skill of the full 360 degree abdominal brace, which will really help you get far more out of this exercise. So what do you guys think is that a lot different or a little different than what you’ve come to know as foam rolling, I hope it’s a lot different because this is stuff that really the best athletes and coaches in the world are doing right now, there’s other approaches for foam rolling as well. None of them are wrong. But this is a matter of putting together an order and allowing you to get the results that you deserve from the foam rolling. Speaking of which, I want to remind you what we talked about at the beginning of the video. And that is six to eight minutes total for all of us. So of course this video went longer. And I’m here explaining to you the reason behind it and how to do it properly. But when you’re doing this on your own 30 seconds for the individual limbs, or anything that’s together, like the thoracic extension may go around 45 seconds if you’re taking long, slow, full deep breaths, and that’s okay, but set a timer for six to eight minutes. And that’s it total. Now the other part to this the second half is that we do not want to do this every single day. So a lot of us tend to get very excited and overzealous if you will, where we say oh, this new thing is really cool. And I’m going to do it every day for 30 days. Well, we need to be very careful. So remember those three jobs that a muscle has to protect a joint to stabilize the joint on adjacent joint moves and to move a joint, we need to make sure that we’re not breaking rule number one. And in order to do that, with the foam rolling and everything going on. We want to take at least one day in between our foam rolling sessions when we’re first beginning. This is where teaching a or treating a new program that you’ve been taught and taking it in two weeks. I can make a huge difference for you. So making sure that you’re doing every other day, let’s say two weeks, and then take a step back and say, How do I feel? Do I feel better? Do I feel worse, just because we’re doing something that the consensus is that you’re going to feel a lot better does not mean that you will actually feel better, we need to find the right cadence for you. So for some of you, that may mean doing this exercise on Monday and Thursday, just twice a week for the first two weeks, and then amping it up to three days a week. And others may find that doing it three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday is best for you. Start small, start slow, be consistent. That’s how we’re going to get you to where you can get the most out of this program. Now another thing to mention now, this is this foam rolling should be done either immediately after a bike ride, or before your dynamic warmup of your strength training program. So I talked about the dynamic warmup in my book, strength training for cycling performance. And the important thing with the foam rolling is that we do it at the right time. So some of you may be thinking after the bike, and before a strength training session before the dynamic warm up. How does that make sense? Those are like apples and pears. Yeah, sure, I can eat it with my hand, but they’re very different fruits. Well, actually, it’s not. When we want to look at our foam rolling, we want to think about how we’re unwinding the muscles that tend to be used or tight, and allowing the muscles that have been shut off or lengthen for long periods of time and stabilizing to get the fire again, this is why that foam roller, why to W at the end and the retro lift are absolutely paramount and must not be skipped. We’ve got to get things to open up that have been tight and closed. And we’ve got to get you to fire up muscles to give you strength and stability through that newfound range of motion. When we’re on the bike, we’re in that crouched Ford position well before our strength training sessions. Most of us have been doing well this very thing right here sitting. And that means we’re going to be in a little bit of a less aggressive ride position. As well as the foam roller allows us post ride to kind of connect with our breathing and feel where our bodies are. Same thing with our pre strength foam rolling and allows you to connect with your body and feel what it feels, what areas are tight, what areas are loose, what feels good, what feels bad. And that can really help you push along the mind muscle connection. Now, last little thing here, before we move back to Ryan over in the studios at Fast Talk Laboratories. Just remember, we’ve got lots of resources for you here at Fast Talk Laboratories. And we are here to help you. So we’ve got the forum and lots of other different ways that you can connect. Make sure you reach out and ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. And again, or maybe not again. But just keep in mind we don’t want to have any type of pain, no stabbing, numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, these are all signs that something is wrong. And you should probably go see a physical therapist in your area to get checked up and see what’s going on. At no point should you have any of those sensations. Definitely not sharp, stabbing pain. If that’s the case, stop immediately and consult with a local professional. Speaking of which, Ryan sorry, hold on one second before I throw it back to you. If you are having trouble with this or you’re seeing results and you would like to progress it, go ahead and find a highly reputable strength coach or personal trainer in your area who has gotten others results. And don’t be afraid to schedule a consultation or a one off with them. The best coaches especially the strength coaches are more than happy to do a consultation to take a look at you and help you be able to make those tweaks where you need it. And that’s going to be one of those things that makes a big difference in your programming. Just like a massage therapist, you can go back two or three times a year to tweak and update and you will be amazed as to the results you can get just from the professional knowing which switch to flip. Speaking of which, I think we should throw it back to Ryan over in Boulder and Fast Talk Labs.

Ryan Kohler 43:58

Well now that you have a nice structured routine for foam rolling. You’ll be surprised at how good you can feel if you take those extra few minutes after your rides to roll out. Thanks for joining us here at Fast Talk Labs. We’ll see you next time.

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