Most of the things we do are in front of us. We get dressed looking at a mirror, we drive to work with the wheel in our laps and our arms extended. We checking emails, watch TV and even read with everything in front of us! I know this is all obvious observation but really think about that. The position we spend most of our time in is what our bodies will become. The more time we spend in one position the worst our mechanics get (unless we are conscious of our body position) Unfortunately, the average American gets so used to doing these tasks that we don’t even know if we are doing them right, we just do them without thinking. Today, I want to spend a little time on reversing the knotted mess that these poor habits create. I want to show you not only HOW to foam roll your back but the BEST way of hitting this space. Lets get started!
Over time, us humans develop this forward flexion, fault from all the slouching, hunching, and rounding forward that we do on a constant basis. Over time the muscles on the anterior portion of our bodies (shoulders, chest and neck) get super tight and ultimately adjust to this newly designed you. If you like this new look by all means don’t change a thing. But if you have nagging low back pain that is now radiating up to your neck, you will want to listen up.
When it comes to foam rolling your back you want to take the same approach you would with any other muscle. The purpose of the foam roller is to act as a tool to break up all the nastiness within the muscle belly. I like to use the analogy of having a giant ship slowly plowing through a frozen section of water. The ship isn’t designed to just scrape the top layer of ice but to break up sometimes chunks of ice that are over a foot thick. This breakage in the water allows other ships to pass and hopefully the ice chunks to get picked up with he current and taken off.
The same idea is at play with your muscles when your using a foam roller to treat back pain. The hot spot may be your lower or mid back but looking at muscular road blocks both up and down stream is where you want your focus to be. As you slowly roll through these muscle groups, allowing your body to completely relax your going to break up a lot of junk that has caused that area to become tight or tense for so long.
I talk a lot about poor posture and mechanics and the end result of other joints and muscles groups having to take the load and compensate for our poor postural decisions. Well, the foam roller is going to be your go-to tool to break up this junk and work towards getting the back pain relief you want.
Lets dive in!
Below are 5 of my go-to foam rolling exercise for your back
Sounds a bit sketchy but it’s pretty simple and makes sense when you see it. In the video you will see me simply laying on my back with the foam roller placed directly down my spine with my arms out to the side making a T. From there I actually like to get a little scapula work in by doing rotations at the shoulder. What this position does is help to release the muscles in the front (chest and shoulders) a bit before you start to hit the back. This isn’t proven but I feel it gives my back muscles a little more room to relax once I beat them up with the foam roller.
Much of this should I do?
Hang out here for 2 minutes before starting the rest.
Full Back Steam Roll:
This exercise is going to take you through the entire back from top to bottom. You will focus on going up and down and rocking back and forth. Check out the video to see exactly how I do it. Remember, the goal is not speed. Go nice and slow and allow the foam roller to sink into your muscles. With every breath, try and get that foam roller to the very bottom of the muscle belly as you roll. If this causes you more pain be sure to stop!
How much should I foam roll?
1 set : 2-3 minutes on over all back going up and down
1 set ; 2-3 minutes on using the rocking technique
3. Lat Smash
The lats are one of those not so obvious causes of back pain. If you look at the lat muscles and fascia attached to it, it takes up a good amount of space. People who have over tight lats can sometimes see a correlation with being stuck in extension or constantly having that mid to low back tightness. Since we are using the foam roller to hit the entire back I want to make sure you spend some time on the lats just to make sure we are hitting it all. When foaming rolling your lats, I like to start up around the arm pit and work my way down. Rolling both up and down and side to side. Don’t allow the pain to cause you to tense up. Relax take deep breaths and break up the tissue slowly.
How much should I foam roll?
1 set : 1 minute going up and down. Each side
1 set : 2 minutes of going side to side. Each side
4. Extension With a Foam Roller
Now that you have used the foam roller to break up the muscle groups and warm them up, lets take the spine through some gentle extension to open up some range of motion. The goal isn’t to see how far you CAN extend, you just want to take your spine through its full range of motion comfortably. Using the foam roller start at the highest point on your spine that you can achieve some level of extension. Place your hands across your chest or behind your head and pivot your place of extension where the foam roller is placed. In other words, the foam roller is where you will be making the “sectional extension” happen. Check out the video for more details!
How much should I foam roll my back?
1 set : 2 minutes. breaking the spine up into 3-4 sections
Bonus Move: Anchor Extension
This one is very similar to the extension exercise using the foam roller. The difference though is that you are anchoring your arms above your head and using the lower half of the body to get into extension. This adds extra work to the shoulders in the over head position getting a good stretch and increased ROM. Do the one that feels better for your specific situation. If it hurts don’t do it!
Check out the video below
How much should I do?
1 set: 2 minutes of extensions over 3-4 sections.
The biggest thing to consider is that the majority of back pain can be healed by looking up and down stream from the actual source of pain. Using a foam roller on your back is one of the best ways that I know to maintain a healthy ROM and keep muscles from locking up causing other muscles groups to compensate. Foam rollers are way cheaper than a manual therapist and don’t require an insurance plan so you really don’t have an excuse not to pick one up!
Let me know what you think! What is your favorite foam roller exercise for your back. Shoot me an email or send me apic of you doing it! I would love to feature you in action!
Talk to you soon!