Soft Tissue Care for Athletes, Part 1 covered the feet and calves; Part 2 moves up the chain to the legs and hips.
Your body is like a car. Picture your feet as the wheels and your core as the transmission. Between them is the engine—your legs and hips. Just as the engine provides power for a car, your legs and hips create the power you need to jump, cut and sprint. And just as a car needs regular tune-ups for optimal performance, your legs and hips require constant maintenance if you expect to excel at your sport.
Over time, stress from exercise and competition causes adhesions (clumping of muscles) and tightness in the quads, hip flexors, hamstrings and glutes. The result is decreased mobility, limiting your speed and strength. With limited mobility, you won't get the full benefit from your workouts, because you won't be able to move through a full range of motion.
"Tune up" your leg and hip muscles with regular foam rolling. Foam rolling breaks up adhesions and relaxes the muscles, reducing both tightness and risk of injury in the knees, hips and lower back.
Quadricep and Hamstring Foam Rolling
Follow the calf rolling technique described in Part 1 to roll the quadriceps and hamstrings. Roll slowly with long, sweeping motions covering the full length of the muscle. Rotate while rolling the quads and hamstrings to break up adhesions.
When rolling your quadriceps and hamstrings, start on the inside of the muscle, work to the outside, then work back in. Stop on spots that feel especially tense or painful, breathe and relax. Check the videos below for good demonstrations.
Hip Flexor Foam Rolling
A softball works best to roll the hip flexors and glutes. The cylindrical shape of PVC and foam rollers doesn't work deep enough into these muscles. To roll the hip flexors, lie on the floor and place a softball under the crease of one hip. Move slowly in all directions while keeping the ball pinned to your hip. Don't get locked into one motion; keep the ball moving to create a better release. Stop on spots that feel tense or painful, breathe and relax. Watch the video below for an demonstration of hip flexor rolling technique.
Glute Foam Rolling
Sit on top of a softball, keeping it pinned beneath one glute. Cross the same leg over the other leg, placing the ankle just above the knee. From this position, roll in all directions, stopping on tense spots. Start with the ball positioned on the outside of the hip and work it in as the muscle begins to relax. Then switch positions and perform on the other side. The video below is a good resource for glute rolling technique.
Combine these techniques with those described in Part 1, and you'll keep your lower body primed for the practice field, weight room and big games. Watch for Part 3, where we'll move to the upper body.
Todd Bumgardner, co-owner of Beyond Strength Performance (Dulles, Va.), works with athletes both in person and online. He earned his master's degree in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania, and he has served as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach and a high school football coach. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, as well as an IYCA high school strength and conditioning specialist.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock