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.
The Ilio-tibial band or ITB as it is commonly known is the tendon attachment from the gluteal muscles that runs down and connects them to the outside of the knee. It is a common site of injury in cyclists and is notoriously hard to stretch so the foam roller is the most effective way to release it. It is always important to stretch through the glutes as well because if they are tight then they will put tension on the ITB.
Rolling slowly up and down the leg and when you find a particular area of tension you can slowly flex and extend the knee 2-3 times to help release it.
When rolling this area we recommend not going any lower than about 6cm from the knee so that you don’t cause injury by compressing these areas.
Athletes with wrist or elbow problems should also be wary when doing this and it is important to keep your lower back in a neutral position.
Here some other muscle groups that cyclists can commonly use the foam roller on.