Foam Rolling – 5 Techniques to Improve your Squat
By James Honey: Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach Pinnacle BLACK
Let’s get one thing straight before we start talking squats and technique. Do foam rollers actually work? Or are they just another too good to be true, fitness gimmick, that will slowly fizzle out?
Of course they work! At Pinnacle we pride ourselves on delivering the very best, evidence based prescriptions. So if it’s in your program you can count on the fact that there is high quality research and studies supporting it. But just FYI…
- Foam rolling has been shown to immediately increase flexibility with benefits lasting for up to 10 minutes.
- Performed on a regular basis it will improve long term flexibility.
- Foam-rolling can benefit subsequent power, agility, strength and speed when used together with dynamic preparatory movements (sound familiar???).
- Recent research has shown that foam-rolling can decrease the sensation of DOMS after exercise.
- When intended as a warm-up stretch before athletic performance, foam-rolling is preferable to standard static stretching.
So how can rolling help with our squats?
It’s incredibly important to have an adequate base of Mobility specific for all things training and competing. Because ‘Mobility’ refers to the useable range of motion available, all capacity for training and performance is therefore determined and capped by the capacity for (or lack of!) mobility. If you can’t squat with hips below knees, then you can’t appropriately train for or compete in powerlifting – the position is a prerequisite of the sport. Same goes for overhead squats; good shoulder and ankle mobility are both essential components of the lift.
Therefore establishing a consistent and stable base of mobility is a huge factor in determining how effectively you will be able to squat.
With that in mind, and now we know how effective foam rollers can be for Self Myo-Fascial Release and triggering… The following are 5 areas to foam roll pre-squatting:
- Gluteal muscles and Hip External Rotators
Tension and tightness through these muscles will inhibit the range of motion available in the squat. Place the glute on stretch by positioning your ankle on the opposite knee (as shown in the image). Turn your body to a 45 degree angle and roll on the same side you are stretching. Eg stretch the right leg across by placing the right ankle on the left knee, rotate 45 degrees towards the right, roll through the right glutes.
Positioning the muscle on a slight stretch before rolling will ensure you get the most out of the technique.
- Lateral Hip Muscles
Your Tensor Facia Latae and Illiotibial Band (TFL and ITB) can often hold a lot of unnecessary tension. Especially if you sit for long periods at work.
The position shown here, with the roller directly below the hip bone, is fantastic for relaxing and releasing any tension. You can reduce the weight and force put through the roller by placing the opposite leg on the floor in front, to take some of the load. This is a good idea for beginners as it can be quite uncomfortable if you are especially tight!
- Quadricep Group
These muscles are also highly likely to be tight after prolonged periods of sitting down.
Start at the hip and roll down the muscle belly one leg at a time.
When you feel a tight spot, dig into it and even bend at the knee to stretch and lengthen the muscle and increase the pressure even more.
- Calf Muscles
Enhancing ROM through the ankle by removing unwanted tension in the calf muscles can provide great benefit to squatting.
This is a common problem area and rolling can have an immediate affect on the ankle ROM and therefore squat technique.
Apply extra pressure if needed by placing the opposite leg onto of the leg you are rolling.
- Adductor Group
Lying on your front with one hip rotated slightly outwards will allow you to access and release the inner thigh/adductor muscles.
Start at the knee, and work steadily up toward the groin with the roller ‘hunting’ for those particularly tight, sore spots.
For all of the above techniques the following principles apply:
– Slow and steady application of bodyweight through the roller
– Use the rolling action to ‘hunt’ for tight or sore spots.
– Once you have found a tight spot, spend at least 20-30 seconds directly on it, up to 120s or until the ‘tightness’ begins to dissipate. It won’t stop being sore completely but it will become more bearable. Once that happens, move on and find the next spot.