The One Body Part You’re Not Foam Rolling but Should, According to a Physical Therapist

Photo: Getty Images/vitapix
Foam rolling effectively soothes sore muscles, helps with lymphatic drainage, and banishes pain in your hips. Most people typically stick to the back side of their body when using a foam roller, focusing on areas like shoulders, calves, and glutes for that sweet, sweet relief. But according to Vinh Pham, physical therapist and co-founder of Myodetox Clinics, you should't ignore the front side—most notably your stomach.

"Everyone understands that they need to stretch their back, but rarely do people stretch the front of their body—in particular their stomach area—and that's a big mistake," he says. "Your stomach tissue often gets tight and compressed over time due to long periods of sitting or endless set of crunches."

When you have a compressed midsection, Pham says it will limit the ability for your ribcage to stay upright. This, in turn, pushes your neck forward. "It gives you a hunchback appearance—the dreaded forward head posture," he says. The good news is foam rolling your stomach can counteract this from happening, and then some. "Opening up your stomach tissue will not only help you feel more relaxed overall, but it might also relieve some of your chronic neck and shoulder stiffness that you feel from working at the office all day."

Because your ribcage will be more mobile, Pham says foam rolling your stomach can even help you breathe easier by allowing you to take deeper breaths. Something that not only benefits you in your day-to-day life, but also when you're working out, meditating, and doing breathing exercises to fight off anxiety. The next time you're going about your foam rolling routine, add your stomach into the mix by following along with Pham's instructions below.

You should be foam rolling your stomach—here's how to do it

All you need to do this exercise is a something like the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller ($35) and a hard surface.

  1. Take the foam roller and place it on the ground.
  2. Lie face down in a plank position and position your stomach on the foam roller.
  3. Roll up and down your abdominals, from right below the ribcage to right above the belt line.
  4. Pause on any tender areas for a few seconds and take two deep breaths.
  5. Make sure to cover your entire stomach and aim for a total of 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Once you’re done, stand up and take a deep breath. You’ll notice that it will be easier to breathe and you'll also feel more upright and aligned.

For even more benefits, you can also lie sideways on the foam roller and open up the side of your ribcage.

Here's exactly how to decompress your spine using a foam roller, according to a Pilates pro. And if you want to take your foam roller on the go, grab this water bottle that keeps your recovery drink cold and your muscles loose.

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