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December 12, 2021 9 min read

Do you constantly find yourself rubbing your neck trying to alleviate the tension there? You aren’t alone. Numerous adults all over the world suffer from neck tension. The good news is, neck tension can be remedied somewhat easily using a foam roller.

Although using a foam roller can be straightforward, you may not know where to begin if you’ve never used a foam roller before. Keep reading to learn more about foam rolling, and be sure that you are using it properly to relieve your neck tension.

Red High Density Foam Exercise Roller

What is a Foam Roller?

For some people, using a foam roller is a bit of a new concept. And this is understandable because, until recent years, foam rollers were only used by physical therapists during physical therapy sessions and other sports medicine professionals. The good news is, foam rollers are now simple for the average athlete to acquire. You can usually purchase one at any sports or workout store. They are large pieces of foam that come in a rolled shape.

There are a few different varieties of foam rollers. Most are smooth, but some of them have ridges or spike to use to get into the hard-to-reach places. As a beginner, it is suggested you purchase a smooth foam roller with a medium to firm thickness. Got one on hand? Perfect, you’ll be using it to give yourself a massage. And believe it or not, this little self-massage has many benefits for your health.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Foam Rolling?

The benefits of foam rolling are endless. Foam rolling is an activity also referred to as self-myofascial release and it is great for both your body and mind. This self-myofascial release relieves the tension and knots that form in your muscles. Muscles are soft tissues, and knots can form frequently from working out or other day-to-day activities. If you disregard this tension, it will continue to increase and could become a serious health issue.

Besides releasing tension in your muscles, foam rolling also relieves tension that can be found in connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. This can help protect your joints and help you to perform better athletically.

Below is a list of the  major benefits of using a foam roller on a daily basis to relieve tension in the body:

  • Post-workout muscle recovery
  • Allows muscles to return to normal function more quickly following a workout
  • Provides pain relief from muscle tension
  • Keeps your muscles healthy
  • Boosts athletic performance overall
  • Increases the range of motion in your joints
  • Helps with pain caused by poor posture
  • Increases blood flow in your muscles

Do you want to be a strong and healthy athlete? Then a foam roller needs to be part of your daily routine. This is true whether you want to be a weight lifter, or an Olympic swimmerbecause without foam rolling, your muscles won’t recover properly and this will hurt your athletic performance.

Of course, foam rolling is only part of what it takes to become a top-notch athlete, and if you truly want to be successful, a warm-up before your workout and  nutrition following your workout also need to be considered. Pair foam rolling with a recovery formula like  ADABOLIC to be sure you are properly feeding your body following an intense gym session.

What Foam Roller Should You Use?

The foam roller you should use for your self-massage will widely depend on what you prefer. Some people like a deeper, more rough massage, but most people will find the act of foam-rolling is difficult enough and that they prefer a foam roller that is a little smoother. To ensure you get the best foam roller for you, it’s recommended that you try out a couple before you purchase one of your own.

Chances are your trainer will have one for you to try, or a physical therapist usually has a couple in their offices as well. This way when you do head out to purchase one, you will know the exact foam roller that is right for you. For neck pain specifically, you will likely want to invest in a mini foam roller. This will let you foam roll almost anywhere, from the gym to sitting at your desk!

Black and white shot of man from back having red spot of pain and trauma in neck.

Do You Suffer From Neck Tension

Everyone suffers from neck tension at some point in their lives. And even if you think it isn’t your neck that is directly hurting, if you have other pain in the area, such as shoulder pain or back pain, this can be directly related to neck tension you didn’t realize you were experiencing. This is because your neck is a huge part of your posture, along with your shoulders, and the neck muscles extend far below your actual neck. If you find yourself leaning forward, experiencing back pain, or pain between your shoulder blades, this is likely due to neck tension.

And if you experience shoulder tension, this condition often goes hand in hand with neck tension. Not to mention that lower back pain, as well as rotator cuff pain, can often be attributed to neck tension. Tight spots in your neck or shoulder area, or basically any sort of upper back pain needs to be addressed immediately. If you don’t work to remedy it right away, neck tightness can quickly turn into neck soreness, and possibly an injury next time you go to the gym.

How to Use a Foam Roller for Neck Tension

Applying foam rolling exercises to relieve tension in your neck is similar to using a foam roller on your shoulders or back. However, there are a few specific foam rolling exercises for your neck. You’ll want to focus on trigger points, also known as tender areas in your muscle that tend to get knotted frequently.

You will know your muscle is knotted when it is hard to the touch. These trigger points are typically the source of your muscle soreness and pain. Below are the best foam rolling exercises to relieve muscle tension in your neck. Be sure to do a couple, focusing on those exercises that get all of your trigger points.

Basic Mini Foam Roller Exercise

This first exercise is the best one for people who experience neck tension on a frequent basis. You’ll use the mini foam roller which is easy to take with you everywhere and use in almost any situation.

  • Start by sitting down in a comfortable position, leaning slightly forward.
  • Be sure your neck is clear of hair and clothing.
  • Place the mini foam roller high on the left side of your neck, starting from a point behind your ear.
  • Hold the mini foam roller in a slightly slanted position
  • Press gently and slowly move the foam roller along your neck, stopping for any trigger points you may encounter.
  • Continue to roll out all the muscles all the way to your shoulder blade.
  • Repeat this motion a couple of times (top to bottom) then switch to the right side.

Basic Large Foam Roller Exercise

Even if you decide not to invest in a mini foam roller, there are many foam rolling exercises that you can complete with the regular size foam roller that you use for all your other foam rolling sessions. This first exercise is simple and can be performed by anyone.

  • Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees so that you are able to place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Put your foam roller beneath your neck and relax your arms
  • Turn your head so that you are looking over your shoulder to your left. You should feel some resistance.
  • Then, turn your head to the right. You should feel some resistance here as well.
  • Do 5 sets of these, staying at the end position for 2 seconds each time.

Chin Nods

The thing about your neck is, it doesn’t just turn in one direction. This is why you must mix in some other foam rolling neck exercises along with the two mentioned above in order to relieve your neck tension. The chin nod is another easy exercise that you can easily pair with the basic foam rolling neck exercise above. You’ll perform this one with the full-size foam roller.

  • Start our lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the floor.
  • Put the foam roller under your neck
  • Relax your arms along your sides.
  • Nod towards the ceiling, stopping when you reach the furthest point you can go. Stay there for 2 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat at least 5 times.

Foam Roller Arch

As we previously mentioned, your neck muscles go far beyond those you just feel in your neck. When you have pain between your shoulder blades, this is likely due to neck tension as well, and it’s time to pull out this foam rolling exercise, or any other upper body foam rolling exercise.

  • Lie on the floor placing a regular size foam roller underneath the middle of your back. Your knees should be bent so your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Raise your arms over your head allowing your back to arch over the foam roller.
  • In this position, move slightly up and down using your feet to massage your mid-back and upper back area.
  • Repeat this motion for 30 seconds.

Lying on the Foam Roller

Because the foam roller is specifically designed for self-massage, you don’t always have to work hard in order to relieve muscle tension. For this next exercise, you will simply be lying on top of the foam roller in a specific position.

  • Lie flat on your back on the floor. Bend your knees so that you are able to place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Put the foam roller vertically under your back so that it is aligned with your spine. The top of the foam roller should be under your head, and the bottom of the foam roller should be under your tailbone.
  • Lay your arms alongside your body and hold the position for as long as you are able (at least 20 seconds)
  • If you would like a more intense stretch, you can also bring your arms above your head.

Sideways Foam Roller Stretch

Like your neck, your back is a messy collection of several different muscles. This is why this sideways foam roller exercise can actually help relieve your neck tension, as the muscles in your back are all connected. This exercise specifically helps to improve mobility in your back and stretch out the muscles in your neck. You’ll need the regular-size foam roller to complete this exercise.

  • For this exercise, you will start out lying sideways on the floor on your right side. Your head should be resting on your right arm.
  • Place the foam roller under your rib cage area.
  • Move slowly back and forth using your right leg for leverage, allowing the foam roller to work out the muscles in that area. You can go all the way up to the base of your armpit, as well as all the way down to the top of your tailbone.
  • Continue this motion for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise on your left side using your left leg for leverage.

Other Parts of Your Body That Can Benefit from Foam Roller Exercises

Your neck and shoulders are the most common places in the body where you will experience tension. But if you are working out frequently, or training for an event, it is also likely that you will experience tension in other parts of your body as well. The good news is, foam roller exercises are great all-around exercises that can help relieve pain in all of the following areas.

  • Glutes
  • IT Band (tendon on the outside of your leg)
  • Hamstrings
  • Fascia (connective tissue located on your side adjacent to your lower back, below the rib cage)
  • Hips
  • Upper Back
  • Calves
  • Quads
  • Lats

Foam rolling is simple in that most of the pain in the above muscles can be relieved with a quick 30-second foam rolling of the tight muscles that are bothering you. But if the problems persist even after a foam roll of the trigger areas, then you will want to look up some foam rolling exercises specific to the area where you are having your muscle pain.

Don’t forget, if you are really struggling with a certain muscle group, or have a pain in a muscle that just won’t go away, don’t be afraid to ask your personal trainer or a physical therapist for help. They may also be able to suggest foam rolling exercises to help your situation.

Ready? Roll Out!

Whether you’ve ever tried foam rolling exercises before as part of your fitness routine, there is nothing like a little self-massage to make your muscles feel better before or after a workout. So if you haven’t picked up a foam roller just yet, it’s time to get one and learn how to foam roll. This way you will keep your muscles in tip-top shape as you bulk up.

If you’re really committed to avoiding injury as you increase your muscle mass, then check out these  10 exercises that will help you avoid injuries