In recent years, doing exercises with foam rollers and similar products has become incredibly popular. Not everyone has access to a training room or professional massage therapist but by using a foam roller you can gain similar advantages. Using a foam roller massages away restrictions to normal soft-tissue extensibility which in turn aids in preventing injuries, gets rid of knots and tightness in your muscles, physically de-stresses your body so it can work more efficiently, increases flexibility and more, all aiding in the needed recovery and maintenance process to ensure peak performance throughout a long season.
Good foam rollers can be found for $20 to $40 online and at most sporting goods stores. If you're not taking using one, you're doing your body a disservice.
The foam roller will eventually be your best friend, trust me. The foam roller is great for after practice so you can release muscle tightness or trigger points. Some of the areas you should focus on are your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and Hip Flexors/IT bands. These are the areas that will be fatigued after practice and games, so the importance of releasing those knots is vital to your recovery and next day performance. - Ross LaBeaux (www.perfectsoccerrecruit.com)
Excerpt from Chris Gorres' post, Active Techniques for a Quick Recovery After Games (read his full post)
Foam Rolling (Self Myofascial Release) is a method to help relieve some of the tension in problem areas like the calves, or IT bands. These trigger points or “knots” are developed over time with repetitive movements, strenuous activity, or even bad posture. Releasing these “knots” is essential for any serious athlete who wants to move better and become more flexible. It’s also very beneficial for people who just want to improve posture or move without pain. By applying pressure to these trigger points, you can aid the recovery of these muscles and restore them to their normal function. Normal, healthy muscles are elastic and can be lengthened or contracted on demand, without inhibition. Simply stretching these muscles isn’t enough to restore them to their original form. Imagine a wrinkled pair of jeans that needs ironing. Pulling on those jeans wouldn’t be enough to restore them. Other methods of self-myofascial release include a lacrosse ball, rolling stick, or manual therapy.
How to: Use the foam roller or a lacrosse ball to find these tight or tender areas. There will be some pain but it should not be unbearable and the rewards are worth the temporary discomfort. One benefit of self-myofascial release is that it puts you in complete control of the process. You know exactly where the spots are and exactly how much pressure you can bear. When you find a trigger point, pause for a few seconds and relax as much as possible, taking deep breaths. You should feel the muscle release after a few seconds. If the pain is too much, work the surrounding areas and gradually move towards the trigger point. Remember, in the end, it doesn’t have to be the most painful experience ever to achieve the goal of restoring good movement. Never roll over a bone or joint
Prescription: Foam roll as much as possible, especially before AND after games or workout sessions.
Here is a video on using a foam roller specifically for soccer players from Yael Averbuch (YFutbol) and Chris Gorres:
Listen to your body and make sure that you are drinking plenty of water before, during and after using a foam roller.