Aren’t rest days just to…rest? While, yes, you totally deserve a day to just chill after killing it at the gym with your leg workouts and shoulder workouts, your muscles may need a little more from your recovery day than lying on the couch.
Let’s make that rest day your most productive day yet! When your muscles perform their hardest during your workouts, just resting won’t work out the knots and kinks. Enter your foam roller. A foam roller is a recovery tool to help loosen tight muscles, work out knots, and increase circulation to prevent added muscle soreness or injury.
While there are many effective foam rollers out there, choose one that is fairly dense and find some open space on a mat or carpet. Here’s an restorative routine that will help limit your risk of injury and make your workouts more productive.
Start with Your Calves
Have a seat with the foam roller underneath one ankle. While rotating your foot right and left, and flexing and pointing your toes, roll back and forth over the roller. Make sure to roll out the sides of your calves and right in the middle of the meaty part of the calf. Your calves are made up of the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles. The soleus is deep underneath the gastrocnemius and can often be incredibly tender.
Oh My Quads!
From there, lie face down with the roller underneath one of your quadriceps and your hands flat on the floor. Work the foam roller front to back. Make sure to get the front of your hip, and then move down towards the knee. If you find a knot, leave the foam roller in that spot for a little while and allow the blood to come to that area. Once the knot begins to loosen, roll back and forth again. Keep repeating this until you feel your quads release. Don’t forget to get the other side!
IT Band and Glutes
So far so good? The IT band, or the iliotibial band, is the ligament that runs from the side of your outer thigh down towards your shin. Sometimes if your gluteus medius is weak or if you pronate your feet, your IT band can get tight. This can lead to anything from uneven hips and bad knees to shoulder tightness.
Start by lying on your left side with the roller under your mid-outer thigh. Bend your right knee and plant the right foot on the floor in front of your left leg. With the left leg straight, start rolling side to side, using your hands on the floor to pull and push your body over the roller. Roll over onto your glutes, the side of your hip, and down to the side of your knee. Now, on to your right leg.
Torso and Chest
From there, lie with the foam roller underneath your low back. Roll up and down the length of your back. Just don’t roll over your neck. As you roll back and forth, turn to the side and roll out your hip and oblique muscles.
To finish up, stretch out your chest. Lie on top of the foam roller long-ways, resting your head on it. The other end will hit right at your tailbone. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground to stabilize yourself. Now, straighten your arms up to the ceiling with your palms facing each other. From there, open up your arms out to a “T” and let the backs of your hands rest on the ground. Now all you have to do is lie there! Stay there anywhere from five to 20 minutes.
A good rule of thumb is that if your shoulders are tight, start with your calves. What we really mean is that you should foam roll more than one area every time. In fact, make it a habit to roll out your entire body. Muscle groups are connected by connective tissue called fascia. Rolling out your whole body will allow your muscles to stay more balanced, recover faster, and be ready to master your next workout!