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 thoracic spine.
This is an important area to address as it very commonly causes problems amongst cyclists due to the hunched over position on the bike. By releasing the thoracics and improving the movement in the rib cage we can also improve our breathing efficiency, which is very beneficial in cycling as it is a predominantly aerobic sport.
The How to
With arms crossed over the chest or supporting the neck, position the roller horizontally under you mid-back and slowly roll up and down the thoracic spine, trying to arch yourself over the roller to increase the extension and open the chest.
Do not go down to the lumber spine as it is already in a position of extension and can become irritated by putting it into further extension.
Here some other muscle groups that cyclists can commonly use the foam roller on.