When it comes to the importance of sports recovery, legendary West German soccer manager Sepp Herberger said it best, “After the game is before the game.”
With that simple statement, the famous coach summed up the importance of smart training and recovery, a nugget of athletic wisdom that extends far beyond the soccer pitch. Regardless of their chosen sport, athletes of all ages and ability levels can improve their performance and reduce their risk of injury with an active recovery routine. As it turns out, one of the most effective training methods is also one of the simplest. Using nothing but a foam roller and the individual’s body weight, fascia training restores flexibility and promotes healing through increased blood flow.
Commonly known as connective tissue, fascia is a thin layer of tissue that holds internal organs, muscles, bone, and nerves in place. Fascia adhesion and injuries can cause significant pain and discomfort. Resolving adhesions can help reduce the discomfort and restore lost flexibility by loosening joints and muscles.
There are countless brands and varieties of foam rollers available, but they all function on the same principle. They use direct pressure to massage and roll out adhesions, which keeps connective tissue flexible and smooth. For those new to fascia training, it’s important to know that foam rolling may feel a little painful at first, especially if there are significant adhesions in the muscle and fascia being treated. The good news is that the pain lessens considerably with each subsequent training.
Unlock your muscles & your performance with fascia training
The following exercises are excellent for beginners. They demonstrate the core characteristics of fascia training without overtraining the muscles. Additionally, they work some of the body’s largest muscle groups, providing relief and regeneration that pays dividends from the first training session.
Focused fascia training for the calves & hamstrings
Sit on the floor with one leg bent. Extend the other leg, placing your heel on the foam roller. Now, push yourself up with your hands so that your bottom is in the air. Slowly push yourself forward so that the roller rolls towards the back of your knee. The hands and the bent leg drive the movement. Be sure to keep your leg and foot relaxed as you roll forward. To train your hamstring, follow the same motion, but start with the roller placed under the back of your knee. Then, push up again with your hands and the bent leg, and roll towards your bottom. Repeat this motion slowly and methodically, rolling each muscle group three to four times in a one-minute interval. If there are areas that feel especially sensitive, pause and hold pressure directly on those spots for 20-30 seconds. This direct pressure will help break up the fascia adhesions and relax the muscles.
Fascia training for the outer thighs & upper body
Start by placing the foam roller under your hip. Next, position yourself in a side plank. Maintain balance by placing your upper arm on the mat in front of you. Place your upper leg in front of you as well, keeping the lower leg stretched out over the roller. Now, roll over the roller, pushing yourself back and forth with your hand and the upper leg. Keep the resting leg relaxed throughout the movement. After one minute of rolling, switch your position to the other leg and repeat the series of movements, stopping only to apply direct pressure on areas that feel especially sensitive.
Fascia training of the quadriceps
To train the fascia in the front thigh, lay down on your stomach. Place the roller under your knees, and get into a plank position. With your body supported by your hands and your quadriceps resting lightly on the foam roller, slowly roll forward and backward so that the roller moves from the top of the knee to the hip and back. Repeat this motion slowly and deliberately for one minute, ensuring the entire muscle is massaged thoroughly.
Basic guidelines for effective fascia training:
- Roll slowly and steadily 10 to 20 times over the different muscular groups
- Keep muscles relaxed during the session
- Pause at sore points and sensitive areas to break up fascia adhesions
- Vary pressure by alternating your supporting arm or by placing one leg on the other to increase the pressure
Summary of fascia training benefits
- Shorten the time of recovery with proper fascia training
- Strengthen the power of your muscles
- Prevent muscle strains and ligament injuries