Fitness and Performance

Foam Rolling for Hikers

Nov 12 2018

If you’re a regular visitor to the Bodyset blog you may have seen our physiotherapist Omkar’s feature which explored why flexibility is so important for hikers. Today he’s looking at exercises which you can incorporate into to your daily routine using a foam roller. These exercises will help you develop flexibility, reduce muscle tightness and increase mobility; all of which will help you to become a more efficient, stronger hiker.

To recap…

Flexibility and mobility training help you to develop acute elastic adaptations in your muscles. This type of adaptation helps prime your body for your next activity or hike, as well as ensuring that the correct posture is maintained.

If you struggle with a limited range of motion, we recommend that you include a long-term flexibility training programme in your regime. Multi-modal flexibility can also help with your body’s and muscles’ recovery and regeneration.

Along with muscle tightness, many hikers suffer from trigger points in muscles around the hips, knees and ankles. A trigger point can be defined as a tender area in your muscle. When stimulated or irritated, it can cause pain in another area of your body. Myofascial release is a great technique to help you improve your flexibility as well as tackle your trigger points.

See a Massage Therapist…

Working with a professional massage therapist to identify and work on your trigger points may help. Alternately, you can alleviate these issues using foam rollers, massage sticks and a tennis ball. We recommend investing in a foam roller, which helps to maintain tissue quality and allows your muscles to train more effectively, without breaking down.

A foam roller is incredibly versatile and can be used to target muscles in the lower back, upper back and the iliotibial band (ITB).

Omkar’s Top 5 Foam Rolling Exercises

Here are five different foam rolling exercises which are fantastic for targeting the five main muscle groups in your body. Foam rollers come in various sizes, shapes and densities so it’s worth doing a little research and trying them out before you buy. Your Physio will also be happy to advise you on the best roller for you.

Calf foam roll

  • Sit on the floor with your legs out straight and a foam roll under one of your calf muscles (back of lower leg).
  • Place your hands on the floor behind you and support your body weight through your arms as you lift your hips off the floor.
  • Starting from the ankle joint (the lower end of the Achilles tendon), roll your calf slowly up and down over the foam roller.
  • As well as going directly up and over the centre, make sure you tilt your leg to target the inner and outer sides of your calf.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
  • If you struggle with the single-leg version or find it too intense, you can place both the legs onto the foam roller and roll in the same way.

Tibialis anterior foam roll

NB: It’s great to target these muscles along with calf muscles as they work together during standing, hill walking and running.

  • Kneel on a mat with a foam roller positioned under your shins. Place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Keep your hands still to take your body weight as you lift up your knees and roll up and down the length of the shin
  • As well as targeting the centre, rotate your legs to work over the medial (inner) and lateral (outer) sides of the shin.

Gluteal foam roll

Your gluteal muscles (the big group of muscles in your buttocks) are vital for hill walking. For weekend warriors who sit for a long time during the week, glutes are more prone to tightness which can compromise your potential.

  • Sit on the foam roller with your hands supporting your weight behind you. Place your right ankle on top on your left knee and pull your ankle towards the shin.
  • Shift your weight over to the glutes of your right buttock. Roll around the glutes, working into the trigger points.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring foam roll

  • Sit on the floor with a foam roller under the hamstrings (back of thigh) of your left leg.
  • Cross your right leg over the top of your left.
  • Roll up and down the length of the hamstrings on the foam roller.
  • Adjust your body position to target the medial and lateral hamstrings.

Quadriceps and hip flexors foam roll

  • Lie with your face on the floor, propped up on your elbows. Place the foam roller beneath your thighs.
  • Use your elbows to move your body and roll up and down the length of your thighs.
  • You can increase the intensity of the exercise by crossing one leg over the other, focussing on one side.
  • To target your hip flexors, roll on the muscles on the front and slightly to the outside of your upper thigh, just below the pelvis.

If you feel that you are affected by poor flexibility, mobility and trigger points why not consult a physiotherapist? A physiotherapist may be able to assess and evaluate your biomechanics, prescribe you an exercise programme, prolong your walking mileage and walking years without any hiccups.


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