What is it?

The foam roller is basic lightweight compressed foam in the shape of a cylinder. It is available in a variety of designs and firmness levels (soft to firm), with soft being best for beginners. It can also be made of flexible plastic.

Tennis players put a lot of strain on their body in general, so simply using the roller to develop healthy muscles, joints, movement and range of motion is important.

What does it do?

Foam rolling is an efficient means of massaging areas of muscle tightness or trigger points. All of the muscles in the body are connected by fascia, which, over time, can become damaged by overuse and injury. Self-myofascial release is a type of physical therapy that helps to keep fascia healthy by allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to run through it. The healthier the fascia, the easier it is for you to move.

For those individuals new to foam rolling, there may be some initial discomfort. Just like when having a massage, there are certain tender areas that may be triggered. Sometimes ineffective areas of fascia may be referred to as knots and scar tissue, but the tissue may not be properly aligned. The entire purpose of foam rolling is to remove the pain and restore healthy tissue, promoting more efficient body movements in the future. Any tennis player looking to increase their fitness level should look into a foam roller.

Who is it designed for?

At one point, foam rolling was specific to athletes, now it is an everyday practice for people of all levels of fitness. Most people can benefit from foam rolling as part of their pre- or post-workout routine or just do a leisure activity. According to Michael Bento, a personal trainer at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, “the hip, shoulder and ankle muscles are most affected when sitting for extensive periods of time.”

The article published by the Harvard Health Letter suggests that foam rolling isn’t right for people with open wounds, fractures, rheumatoid arthritis and more. To find out more information, read more here.

What are the benefits?

  • Reduces muscle tightness and pain
  • Increases blood flow
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhances performance; helps you move more resourcefully
  • Speed ups recovery

Tips - What to do when rolling?

  • Address one area for 30 – 60 seconds
  • Breathe deeply and move slowly
  • Divide the muscle you selected into two areas and roll back and forth a few inches
  • Do not foam roll directly on the injured area
  • Stay focused on good form
  • Do no stay on one spot for too long as it might irritate a nerve or damage the tissue
  • Start from the bottom to the top; first with the calves, quadriceps, glutes and then move up to the back
  • As you get more advanced, you can work on particular points of interest
  • Be consistent; do this three to five times per week

Before you begin, it is important to know the source of your pain and what the precise goal with foam rolling is.

5 exercises for tennis players to do with a foam roller

Perform each exercise for 30-60 seconds and remember to take your time when rolling and do both sides.

If you have any pain during or prior to exercise, do not continue until you have consulted a medical professional.

Here are a few lower body exercises to get you started:

Calf Roll

  • Comfortably sit down with the legs extended in front of you and hands at the side
  • Place the foam roller underneath your calf muscle, with the other leg relaxed on the floor
  • Raise your hips off the floor and roll yourself forward one to two inches so the foam roller gets closer to your knee
  • Slowly move the foam back into the starting position above the Achilles tendon
  • When you find a tight spot, flex and extend your ankle like you are pushing down on a gas pedal

Iliotibial (IT) Band Roll

  • A wide band that starts where the hip pokes out at the very top and goes all the way down past your knee
  • Lie on your side and put the other leg over so you can adjust how much weight you are putting through the muscle as you are doing it
  • Roll along the outside of the leg, but don’t go past the knee
  • Use your butt and arms to control your movement

Hamstring Roll

  • In a seated position, extend both of your legs over a foam roller so it is positioned behind the upper part of your legs
  • Place your hands to the side or behind you for support and use your hands to lift your hips off the floor
  • Ease the hamstring of the leg you are stretching
  • Slowly roll back and forth over the foam from below the hip to above the back of the knee

Quadricep Roll

  • Lie face-down on the floor with your weight supported by your hands or forearms
  • Place a foam roller at the top of the knees; you can do both legs at the same time, or one leg at a time
  • Slowly roll the foam over your quads from above the knee to below your hip

Glutes Roll

  • Sit with your butt on the foam roller
  • Bend your knees, and then cross one leg so that the ankle is over the opposite knee
  • Balance and slowly roll over the glutes until you feel a release of tension

A foam roller can help extend your muscles to their proper length, reduce joint restrictions and promote overall fitness for tennis players. Regardless of which injuries you might be concerned about preventing or treating, there’s value to using a foam roller.

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