Like a bicycle chain that’s gone through a few thousand revolutions in the elements, your hard-working cycling muscles can get a little gunked up over time, developing small adhesions that make you stiff and sore. This tightness may limit range of motion and power. Sure, a massage therapist can work them out, but most of us can’t throw down the cash for a live-in soigneur. That’s where a handy foam roller comes into play.
Though it can’t replace a skilled set of therapeutic hands, foam rolling can help warm, stretch, and provide myofascial release—breaking adhesions and scar tissue within the muscle and fascia that covers it—to prevent and relieve muscle soreness, says Scott Levin, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in New York. “Foam rolling is a convenient and effective way to home in on trouble spots and work through them at your comfort level,” he says.
But when you know how to foam roll properly, you’re not only providing your body with an easy form of self-massage to soothe achy muscles, you’re also improving circulation, speeding up recovery, and feeling better overall during your next workout.
The routine in the video above is designed to provide relief after a long day on the bike. It hits all your key pedaling and supporting cycling muscles—including the quads, inner thighs, and back, which many riders ignore. (Don’t be surprised if each spot is more tender than you expect.) Each move is demonstrated by Charlee Atkins, certified trainer, so you can learn the proper technique and unique modifications.
How to use this list: Roll each body part over the foam roller five to 10 times. If a spot feels extra tender, try this: Start below the area, work up to it, and gently hold for a few seconds, shift the weight side to side and front to back then roll through it until it feels better. Use a gentle touch throughout. It should be a “good” discomfort, not an agonizing grimace-and-smash session. And you should never be bruised afterward.
1. Calf (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)
Start seated with right ankle crossed over left and the foam roller underneath left ankle. Lift hips to roll up and down the calf slowly four times, then rotate left leg to the left and right twice with the roller below the middle of your calf. Repeat on the right leg.
2. Shin (Tibialis Anterior)
Start on all fours, wrists below shoulders, knees below hips with the roller placed below the left knee. Roll up and down left shin four times, then pivot hips to the right and left twice. Repeat on the right leg.
3. Thigh (Quadriceps)
Start in a forearm plank with roller placed across the left thigh, just above the knee. Roll up and down quads four times, then stop midway and bend left knee twice. Repeat on the right leg.
4. Inner Thigh (Adductors)
From a forearm plank position, rotate left leg out externally and place roller perpendicular to thigh just below hip crease. Shift weight to roll back and forth on the inner thigh four times, then draw left knee toward left shoulder twice. Repeat on the right leg.
5. IT Band (Iliotibial Band)
Lie on left side with roller placed along the outer left thigh. Cross right leg over left and support upper body on left forearm. Roll four times up and down on the outer part of the thigh between the hip and knee, then bend left knee twice. Repeat on the right leg.
6. Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris)
While seated, position the foam roller just under the left glute and roll up and down over the upper portion of the hamstring four times. Then, with the roller just below glute, shift left to right twice for cross friction. Repeat on the right leg.
7. Deep Hip (Piriformis)
Sit on the foam roller with weight shifted to the left. Roll the left glute to just under the hip bone four times, then draw left knee to chest and extend two times. Repeat on the right hip.
8. Outer Hip (Tensor Fasciae Latae)
Lie on left side with the foam roller under left hip, feet splayed, and right hand on hip. Shift weight back and forth an inch or two four times, then rolling your shoulders forward and backward twice. Repeat on the right hip.
9. Lower Back (Thoracolumbar Fascia)
Lie faceup, knees bent, feet flat on floor with the foam roller under your lower back. Slowly drop knees to the left, pause, then drop knees to the right side. Repeat twice more on each side.
10. Upper and Middle Back (Thoracic Spine)
Lie faceup with knees bent and position the foam roller under the middle of your back. Place hands behind head and roll between mid-back to the top of your shoulder blades four times, then pause and pivot, dropping elbow toward hip twice on each side.
11. Outer Upper Back (Latissimus Dorsi)
Lie on right side with right arm extended out straight, thumb pointing up, and place the foam roller below right underarm. Roll to the bottom of the lat (just above your natural waist) and back up four times, then rotate right palm up and sweep right arm forward and back. Repeat on the left side.
12. Back of Arm (Triceps)
Lie facedown and position the roller along the backside of your right arm just above the elbow. Roll over the triceps four times, then pause and bend right arm twice. Repeat on the left arm.
Video: Josh Wolff, David Monk; Apparel: Vuori
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