If you're an avid tennis player, no doubt you're all too familiar with aching muscles. Using a foam roller is a great way to "work out the kinks" by applying pressure to these muscles in a process known as "self-myofascial release." While some have regarded foam rollers as cute cylindrical torture devices, it's hard to deny that they can bring some much-needed relief to sore muscles. Below are four excellent foam roller exercises that will help you shorten your recovery time so that you can get back on the tennis court faster.
Tight, sore calves can be a nuisance to deal with, but this foam roller exercise will do a great job of loosening them up. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, and your feet about six inches apart. Support yourself by placing your hands flat on the floor slightly behind you. Place the foam roller underneath your calves, and then use your arms as leverage to help move your legs back and forth over the roller, between the back of your knees and your ankles.
If your hamstrings aren't at 100%, your footwork on the court will be limited, as you won't be able to perform those explosive stop-and-start movements that are essential to on-court mobility. Start off by sitting on top of the foam roller with your ankles crossed, left leg on top of the right leg. If you're doing it right, only the back of your right leg should be in contact with the foam roller. Using your arms as support behind you, slowly move your leg back and forth over the foam roller, from the bottom of your right butt cheek to the back of your knee. Now switch legs and repeat, and remember to take it slow!
3. Thighs (a.k.a. Quadriceps)
Your quadriceps are also a vital muscle group in terms of tennis mobility. If they're tight or stiff, you will immediately be able to tell it by your limited footwork. To remedy this situation, start off in a plank position (which basically looks like a regular push-up), with the foam roller underneath both thighs near the hips. Walk your arms out in order to move your body back and forth over the roller, from your upper thighs to your knees. This might feel unusual at first, and the sensations might range from a near-tickle to all-out agony. If it seems a little too unbearable, modify as necessary to ease some of the discomforts.
Many a tennis player has had to deal with stiff or sore back muscles. This can affect your ability to put power behind your strokes, and it can hinder your form and balance by enacting certain compensation patterns in your upper body.
To help bring these battered muscles some relief, sit on the floor with the foam roller directly behind you, and then lean back to where your lower back is making contact with the foam roller. Rest your hands slightly behind your back for balance. Now tighten up your abs, bend your knees and use your legs to move your body back and forth over the roller, covering the area from your lower back to just beneath your shoulder blades. It can be difficult to support your body with your arms in this position, so you can modify as needed by resting your elbows on the floor.
Foam rollers might be the exercise device that we all love to hate, but they'll get the job done in terms of boosting muscle recovery. Keep the above exercises in mind to help roll those muscles back into top condition!