The humble foam roller should be a staple piece of equipment in every cyclist’s kit. As an osteopath I recommend all the cyclists I treat regularly do foam roller sessions to both improve performance and prevent injury on the bike. In order to get the most out of your foam roller sessions here are a few basic guidelines as well as some demonstrations on foam roller technique to different muscle groups.
This is general advice only so if you suspect that you may have an injury then always consult a health care professional to get a diagnosis.
The foam roller is most commonly it is used after training or racing to help aid recovery by improving blood flow to muscles as well as removing any toxins that are produced during exercise. The roller can also be used pre workout to help warm up the muscles by improving blood flow to them.
The frequency and duration of your sessions can vary from athlete to athlete and is dependant on things such as pain tolerance (foam rolling doesn’t tickle), training load and what you are trying to achieve. As a general rule I recommend between 1-3 minutes per muscle group. This will be shorter on hard training days and when using it to warm up and can be longer on rest and easy training days.
Like all forms of training, quality is more important than quantity. One of the main advantages of using a foam roller over stretching alone is that you can target specific areas of tension within the muscle. The easiest way to determine which part of the muscle you need to focus on is that it will be more painful.
If your schedule allows, I think foam rolling is something you can do daily as long as you are sensible with duration and pressure used, especially on hard training days.
Now that we've been through the basic principles, the following video demonstrates proper technique for using the foam roller of your quadriceps.
The quadriceps are the most powerful muscle group used in cycling and are important throughout the power phase of the pedal stroke (from 11 o’clock to around 4 o’clock in the pedal stroke.).
The How to
Lying on your front with the roller on the front of your thigh, slowly roll up and down from the hip to a point approximately six centimetres above the knee so as not to irritate the patella tendon.
You can adjust the amount of pressure you apply by shifting more weight onto the elbows. You can also specifically target the medial or lateral part of the muscle by rotating your leg in or out.
If you have pre-existing shoulder or elbow injuries then check with your therapist before doing this technique. It is also important to maintain a neutral lumbar spine throughout.
Here some other muscle groups that cyclists can commonly use the foam roller on.