Warming up and cooling down serve as essential parts of your workout, helping prepare your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems for exercise and ease your body back into its normal operating state. Although you can warm up and cool down just fine with low-impact physical activity and a combination of unassisted dynamic and flexibility-oriented stretches, the foam roller helps relieve tension and encourages muscle flexibility.
The foam roller comes in the form of a firm, dense foam cylinder. To use a foam roller, you simply place it on an exercise or yoga mat and slowly roll the part of the body you wish to stretch over the cylinder. This motion encourages compression and lengthening of the muscles to encourage pliability. In addition to working the hamstrings, foam rolling also accommodates stretches for the adductors, biceps, calves, glutes, lats, back and quadriceps.
To stretch your hams on a foam roller, sit up on an exercise mat with your upper body leaning back slightly. Place your hands palms-down behind you so that your fingers point in toward your body. Extend your legs in front of you and position the foam roller horizontally underneath your thighs. This elevates your calves, thighs, feet and buttocks. Roll the foam cylinder from your knees back to your buttocks and repeat. If you find knots or tense spots, pause for 10 to 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, do one leg at a time and turn your leg in and out as you roll.
When to Stretch
Foam roller hamstring stretches serve you best before or after exercise, as part of your warm-up or cool-down phase. This stretch in particular caters to the pre- and post-phases of running, jogging and bicycling or other hamstring-intensive exercises such as squats or lunges. As the foam roller helps ease tension and knots, you can also roll your hamstrings before engaging in unassisted hamstring stretches. The foam roller is not limited to the workout period; use it to massage your hamstrings any time they feel tense or tender.
Like a massage, the foam roller encourages myofacial release to ease tightness and heighten mobility and range of motion. Foam roller stretches, whether for the hamstring or other parts of the body, improve your circulation, which assists in exercise preparation and recovery. The warming of muscles provided by a pre-workout foam roller stretch helps prevent soreness, according to sports medicine specialist Scott Levin of Somers Orthopaedic Surgery. When used as part of your cool down, foam roller hamstring stretches help flush the body of toxins, encouraging muscle recovery.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.