Foam Rolling, Stretching and Dynamic Warm-Up

Preparing your body properly for a training session is very important. Foam rolling and stretching, followed by a comfortable dynamic warm-up is critical to staying injury free, and allowing your body to perform optimally during your workout.

In the last 10 years, we all have seen Foam Rollers of various types in training gyms and fitness centers. Self-massage or self-myofascial release as it is referred to in the fitness profession is the easiest and most economical way you can treat or prevent soft tissue injury, short of going to a massage therapist. Muscle tissue filled with trigger points or knots will not function optimally even after a good warm up. Thus, the reason to practice self-massage using a foam roller.

Using a Foam Roller prior to training will make the muscle tissue more pliable and extensible. The key here is to slowly roll out the muscle areas of the quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, glutes, lats, pecs and back to find the trigger points or tender areas. Rolling out these areas will reduce muscle density and soreness. Once you find a trigger point, spend 45-60 seconds in that area doing short slow rolls over the area until the pain starts to dissipate.

After 5-10 minutes of foam rolling, we then begin the Static Stretch portion of our warm-up. Stretching while your muscle is cold before the dynamic warm-up is now recommended by many top tissue experts. Warm muscles tend to elongate and return to their normal length. Cold muscles actually undergo an increase in length and plastic deformation. Holding the static stretch for approximately 30-45 seconds will optimally elongate the muscle.

I start with my quadriceps first. I perform my first stretch in a stretching cage located in my gym or you can put your leg up on a training table. The key here is to get your heel pressed to your buttocks. If you do not have a cage or training table available to you, use a balance pad or a yoga mat on the floor to put your knee on, on the side you are stretching. Reach behind you and grab the ankle of the leg you are stretching, and pull your heel to your buttocks.

My hamstrings are next. The standing hamstring stretch is easy to do anywhere. Just find a place to put your leg on elevated to about waist level. A training room table, a plyo box or the bars on the inside of a stretching cage. Bend at the waist, grab the back of your calf or ankle and try to touch your nose to your knee and hold that position for 30-45 seconds. Another one l like is standing with feet crossed and legs straight (left over right and then repeat right over left). Bend at the waist and grab your calves or ankles. Slowly pull your nose into your knee and hold for 30-45 seconds, then switch it up (left over right if you first put right over left) for another stretch of 30-45 seconds.

My hips. The Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: Extend one leg out in front of you with your foot flat on the floor. Your upper leg and lower leg should be at a 90-degree angle. Use a balance pad or a yoga mat to put your knee on, on the side you are stretching. Press the knee into the balance pad or mat so it stays firmly in place. Slowly rock forward until you feel the stretch in the quadriceps and hip. Hold that stretch for 30-45 seconds. Another effective hip stretch I use as part of my daily routine is the Pigeon Stretch. Bring the heel of your front leg to the pants pocket on your other leg. This will align your hips and allow you to drive them into the floor, accentuating the stretch. Exhale and lay your torso down over the leg in front of you while the leg behind you should remain as straight as possible.
Stretching your calves: Keep your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend your back knee. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 30 – 45 seconds and switch sides.

The last part of my warm-up is a dynamic or active stretch. I begin by warming up my quads and lower body. I begin this portion of my warm-up with the bodyweight lunge walk. Take short lunge steps to begin with and gradually increase the length of your stride as you begin to get warm. Do this 10-15 times for each leg.

The next one on my list is called, walking knee to chest. As I walk slowly down the field or track grab one knee at a time and pull to my chest. I like to alternate legs. Do this 10-15 times each side.

Body weight side squats are next to really warm up my quads, glutes, and hamstrings. These I do for 10 reps to each side.

We now move to focusing on our hamstrings. The hamstring kicks is a calisthenics, stretching, and warm-up exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings and to a lesser degree also targets the glutes and outer thighs. Begin walking down the field or track and alternate kicking each leg as high as you can out in front of you trying to touch the outstretched opposite hand. Ex. kick the right leg into the left hand and vice versa. Alternate legs for 10 reps each side.

And finally, I like to finish off my dynamic warm-up with side band walks. I position an exercise band just below both knees and begin to step to the right, followed by the left. I do this for 12-15 reps. I then return taking steps to the left followed by the right for 12-15 reps. This will really do a job on warming up my adductors.

This is my basic dynamic warm up. It takes just 5-10 minutes, but really finishes off a great warm up or pre-hab of foam rolling, static stretching, and active stretching, and really preps my lower body for a good workout, which may include leg strength training such as single leg squats, plyo training such as box jumps, or sprint training. Give this quick 15-20 minute pre-hab warm-up a try and feel the difference in your workouts and your recovery.Foam Rolling, Stretching and Dynamic Warm-Up