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Are you wasting your time with foam rolling exercises?

Foam Roll IT Band Side Planking Using Foam Roller

Are there any real benefits of foam rolling?

Are you still stiff & struggling with restricted movement, despite hours of foam rolling exercises & stretching?

Try our 2 simple tests to see if foam rolling exercises are benefiting you

The Theory 

One of the common things you will see people doing in the gym or during a warm up routine is lying over a foam roller to improve their upper thoracic spine mobility.

Many physiotherapists and fitness trainers will argue that these foam rolling exercises are beneficial for improving thoracic spine extension. But what I've learnt during my years in professional sports is that the key requirement for a rotational athlete (e.g. runner, golfer, tennis player) is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE. These athletes  require thoracic flexion to improve rotation.

The key requirement for a rotational athlete (e.g. runner, golfer, tennis player) is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE, these athletes require thoracic flexion to improve rotation.

The Technical Info - What does the diaphragm have to do with rotation during sport?

If you can visualise what should happen to your ribcage when you rotate your body .... it should shift and move freely from left to right. The muscle that controls the movement of your ribcage is your DIAPHRAGM. Yes, the most important muscle for breathing is also the most important muscle for upper body rotation.

The diaphragm is split in to 2 parts (leaflets) - left and right. The RIGHT diaphragm influences airflow in to the LEFT chest wall and therefore LEFT upper body rotation.

It follows the LEFT diaphragm influences the airflow to the RIGHT chest wall and therefore RIGHT upper body rotation.

So ensuring the diaphragm is in its optimal (domed) position, to permit ribcage rotation, is key to improving your ability to rotate during sport.

diaphragm ribcage

Ensuring optimal diaphragm (domed) position is the key to improving your ability to rotate during sport.

If we take the golf swing or tennis shot as an example, for a right handed golfer or tennis player, the key to accuracy for your swing/shot is unrestricted right upper body rotation during the backswing.

With what we understand about the diaphragms role in upper body rotation, for unrestricted right upper body rotation to be physically possible, you must have the ability to expand the right chest wall to allow rotation of the ribs on the right hand side. This is why restoring position to the left diaphragm is essential for the right handed golfer or tennis player.

golf_skeleton_video

Golf skeleton graphic courtesy of http://www.lifemodeler.com

How does foam rolling affect the position of the diaphragm? / upper body rotation?

Rib Flare - Foam Rolling Exercises Upper Back

When you lie over a foam roller allowing the ribcage to flare (see circled in image above), both the right and left diaphragm muscle will lose optimal position. This impacts on the ability of the athlete to inflate his right chest wall and therefore influences the ability to rotate his upper body to the right. Without unrestricted upper body rotation your range of movement will be limited and it will be impossible to have the accuracy and consistency in your golf swing or tennis shot or simply your movement patterns for running.

Without unrestricted upper body rotation your range will be limited and it will be impossible to have consistency in your golf swing or tennis shot.

Try these 2 simple tests you can do to check if you are benefiting from foam rolling exercises

1. Lying on your back, you should be able to fully internally rotate both arms in this position (negative test - see image below). If there is a restriction in right humeral internal rotation (positive test - see image below) following the foam rolling session then the warm up has been ineffective. The athlete is not in an optimal position to produce rotation of his/her thorax (ribcage). The right ribcage is still held in an internally rotated position and the sternum (breastbone) is still orientated to the right. This will not allow unrestricted right upper body rotation to take place.

Shoulder Internal Rotation Test
Picture Courtesy Of PRI

2. Another key test to perform is horizontal abduction of the right and left shoulder in a supine position. If you are unable to fully horizontally abduct the left shoulder then right ribcage rotation is limited. Clinically the sternum (breastbone) is orientated to the right and the the right ribcage is in a internally rotated (turned in) position.

Horizontal Abduction Test
Picture Courtesy Of PRI

Why it's important you undertake BOTH tests and interpret the results TOGETHER ... What do your results show?

Both clinical tests are required to be performed to get the true answer. Many athletes have developed laxity in their ligaments to compensate for the lack of true upper body rotation, so just doing one of the tests may give a false positive.

What does this mean?

For example, the right handed golfer or tennis player can develop laxity in the shoulder joint capsule or develop a labral tear to give them the rotation they need.

Detailed assessment of the pelvis, ribcage and diaphragm is key to improving the ability to rotate.

For more information about our sports physiotherapy services and our Complete Sports-Injury to Injury-Free method please get in touch via the contact form below.

Not sure if foam rolling exercises are right for you?

If you are unclear about whether foam rolling is benefiting you, get in touch and let us help you understand exactly what exercises and warm up routine could help you now

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Download The Warm-Up That I Use With Professional Athletes To Prevent Sports Injuries .... FREE 

USING THESE 2 SIMPLE EXERCISES, IN UNDER 10 MINUTES, PREVENT FUTURE INJURIES, EASILY, QUICKLY AND ITS FREE

Sports Injury Exercises Warm Up Injury Prevention

With My Professional Sport Approach, You'll See Results Fast And It's FREE
  • Simple warm-up that can Eliminate the pain & frustration of sports injury
  • Watch the bonus training video for precise coaching of this warm-up, to allow you to get your body in optimum position for sport
  • Includes FREE Print Out & Video so you can get started immediately and access from your phone, tablet or laptop on-the-go
  • Plus bonus content:
  • Case Studies and Tips
  • How to Choose The Right Trainers To Prevent Sports Injuries
  • How Running Too Upright Could Cause Injuries
  • Eliminate the pain & frustration of sports injury, be in control of your body & perform at your best in under 60 days

    Want to know how I can help with your Sports Injury? Book a Free Consultation Call Today

    Benefits of foam rolling? - Foam Rolling for Runners - Foam Rolling for Golfers

    Want to know how I can help with your Sports Injury? Book a Free Consultation Call Today

    I help athletes and active people get back to being injury and pain free quickly, by treating the cause of the injury. So the injury won't keep returning

    Download The Warm-Up That I Use With Professional Athletes To Prevent Sports Injuries .... FREE 

    With My Professional Sport Approach, You'll See Results Fast And It's FREE
  • Simple warm-up that can Eliminate the pain & frustration of sports injury
  • Watch the bonus training video for precise coaching of this warm-up, to allow you to get your body in optimum position for sport
  • Includes FREE Print Out & Video so you can get started immediately and access from your phone, tablet or laptop on-the-go
  • Plus bonus content:
  • Case Studies and Tips
  • How to Choose The Right Trainers To Prevent Sports Injuries
  • How Running Too Upright Could Cause Injuries
  • Sports Injury Exercises Warm Up Injury Prevention

    USING THESE 2 SIMPLE EXERCISES, IN UNDER 10 MINUTES, PREVENT FUTURE INJURIES, EASILY, QUICKLY AND ITS FREE

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