Every Firefighter, EMT and Medic Needs this Fitness Tool…

People tend to measure how effectively they’ve worked out by how sore they are the following days.  Let me ask you:  How good is a workout that leaves you so sore that you can’t workout for the next 3 days?   What most people don’t realize is that your body improves and adapts to stress on the days you rest.  The better and more rapidly you recover, the more quickly your body adapts.This is especially important for the Fire Rescue Athlete, a hard workout on Monday, followed by a difficult shift on Tuesday can lead to an injury on Wednesday.

Have you heard about the foam roller? We all know that our job is dangerous and that we as Fire Rescue Athletes are more likely to get injured on the job than any other profession.  So this brings me to the question, what is the best way to combat against this potential for injury? My research shows that athletes that consistently work their core, have a well planned workout program and an effective stretching and recovery program are less likely to have injury than those that don’t.  If you’ve followed my past posts you know how to address working your core,  and periodizing your workout so today I wanted to talk a little about how to recover from an intense shift or workout.

A decade ago, strength coaches, personal trainers and athletic trainers would have looked quizzically at a 36-inch long cylindrical piece of foam and wondered, “What is that for?” Today, nearly every fitness center and most strength and conditioning facilities contain an array of foam rollers of different lengths and consistencies.

A foam roller is a 3ft. long by 6in. piece of compressed foam.  The idea here is that you roll your body weight along the foam roller, massaging through restrictions (adhesions) that may occur in your muscles (especially those of the back) and thus causing the nerves to relax and loosen.  This allows blood to flow more freely through the muscles and allow muscles to heal and repair more efficiently.  The exercise physiology geeks (peer fitness trainers) refer to this concept as “Self-Myofascial Release”.

When to foam roll?  I personally try to roll almost everyday.  One of the best times the foam roller can be beneficial is during your dynamic warm-up before your workouts.  Try to roll for 4 or 5 minutes.  I also like to do some light stretching and foam rolling anytime I am sore from a long shift or hard workout.   There is a love/ hate relationship with the foam roller.  I encourage you to try it during your next shift or workout.  Give it more than a week before formulating an opinion on its effectiveness.   Just like a massage, there will be some discomfort when you hit the right spot. Over time the foam roller will get easier.  Your muscles will be healthier and have less adhesions (knots) making your body and back feel better.  Click on the video below for more information on using the foam roller.

How to use the foam roller.

Perform each foam rolling exercise for 20-30 seconds. Roll for longer at points of major discomfort.

Calf Roll –  While seated, place a foam roller underneath your lower leg with the other leg placed on the floor supporting some of your weight. Place hands at sides or just behind you, and press down to raise your hips off of the floor, placing your weight against your calf muscle. Roll from below the knee to above the ankle.  Repeat on opposite leg.

Hamstrings Roll-  While seated, extend your legs over a foam roller so that it is positioning on the back of the upper legs. Place your hands to the side or behind you to help support your weight. Using your hands, lift hips off of the floor and shift your weight on the foam roll to one leg.  Relax the hamstrings of the leg you are rolling. Roll over the foam from below the hip to above the back of the knee. Repeat on opposite leg.

Quadriceps Roll -Lie face-down on the floor with your weight supported by your hands or forearms. Place a foam roller underneath one leg and keep that foot off the ground.  Shifting as much weight onto the foam roller leg as tolerated, roll from above the knee to below the hip. Stop on the “hot” spots.  Repeat on opposite side.

Glutes Roll–  Sit with your butt on top of a foam roller. Bend your knees, and then cross one leg so that the ankle is over the knee. Shift your weight to the side of the crossed leg, rolling over your glutes until you feel a “hot” spot.  Repeat on opposite side.

Lower Back Roll  -Lay on the floor, place a foam roller under your lower back.  Raise your hips off of the floor and lean back, keeping your weight on your lower back.  Now roll side to side, keeping your weight off of the spine and on the muscles to one side of it.  Roll over your lower back.

Upper Back Roll  -Lie down with your back on the floor. Place a foam roller underneath your upper back and cross your arms in front of you, keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.  Raise your hips off of the ground, placing your weight onto the roller. Shift your weight to one side, rolling the upper to mid back. Alternate sides.

Try to incorporate the foam roller into your workouts, during your dynamic warm-up or at the beginning of your next shift.

Please leave comments or send me an email with your thoughts about “foam rolling.”

Stay Safe,

Aaron Zamzow

Get the FRF Guide to Stretching and Foam Rolling As a Bonus for Starting any FRF Workout Program (click here).

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