April 26, 2021

Self Myofascial Release for The Hips to Legs

Written by: Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Reviewed by: Mubashar Rehman, PHD

Why Should you Perform Self Myofascial Release for the Hips and Legs?

Our lower extremities consist of muscles that produce a variety of movements which I will highlight below. These muscles are crucial as they work in conjunction for everyday activities such as sitting down and standing up (1), to more vagarious athletic-based activities like sprinting, jumping and many lower body resistance training exercises (2). For this reason, it's ideal to keep these muscles in check with regular self myofascial release to reduce stiffness, pain and improve mobility. (Refer to my previous articles for more information on self myofascial release).

 

6 Self Myofascial Release Exercises for the Hips up to the Legs

 

Exercise One - Single Limb Foam Rolling (3)

Equipment Required: Foam Roller 

Targeted muscle: Gluteus maximus and hamstrings

Muscle location and joint action: The Gluteus maximus is a large muscle that runs from the bottom of the lower back to the top of the leg and the hamstring originates at the top of the leg and inserts into the back of the knee. These muscles are responsible for extending the hip (moving upper leg back) and flexing the knee (curling the knee back) (3). Over time, ground substance and scar tissue can form in the myofascial tissue causing pain and a restriction in the highlighted movement, which can hinder everyday activities and exercise performance. The foam roller can be utilized for myofascial release of the glutes and hamstrings.

Step 1: Place a foam roller on the ground on a clean surface.

Step 2: Lie supinated (on back) perpendicular on top of the foam roller positioned just close to the tailbone.

Step 3: The intention of this exercise is to create positive pressure in the back of the limb by rolling the foam roller up and down a single glute and hamstring from the bottom of the lower back all the way down to the back of the knee. You should use your non-targeted leg and arms to push and pull against the ground to create movement.

Step 4: Continue rolling for 50 seconds. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets. 

Step 5: Ensure you alternate limbs.

 

Exercise Two - Lateral Limb Medicine Ball or Foam Rolling (4)

Equipment Required: Medicine ball or Foam Roller

Targeted muscle: Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Iliotibial band (ITB)

Muscle location and joint action: These gluteus muscles are located on the side of the buttock, originating at the hips and inserting at the top of the leg, thereby producing an abduction (moving the leg laterally away from the body) and rotation of the upper leg (moving the leg out horizontally). The ITB is a thick fibrous tissue that is found laterally to the center of the leg running down from the hip to the knee (4). The ITB can get really overactive and tight for aiding all of the joint actions produced at the hip, along with stabilizing the knee during knee extensions (straightening at the lower leg) (4)

Step 1: Place a small 4-5kg medicine ball on the ground on a clean surface 

Step 2: Lie laterally (on the side) perpendicular on top of the foam roller positioned just close to the top of the hips.

Step 3: Create positive pressure into the side of the leg by rolling the medicine ball from the side of the hip and down to the side of the knee. You should use your non-targeted leg and arms to push and pull against the ground to create movement and additional positive pressure. 

Step 4: Continue rolling for 40-50 seconds. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets. 

Step 5: Ensure you alternate limbs.

 

Exercise Three – Trigger Point Myofascial of Piriformis (5)

Equipment Required: Massage ball

Targeted muscle: Piriformis

Muscle location and joint action: The piriformis is a deep band-like muscle located at the center of the gluteus maximus. This muscle is responsible for stabilizing the hip joint and aiding rotation (5)

To dig deep into this muscle, you must, first, warm up the muscle by perfuming some low-intensity exercise. Take into account that targeting this muscle can be excruciatingly painful in the short term but can cause instant relief. 

Step 1: Place a small massage ball on the ground on a clean surface.

Step 2: Put pressure into one of the buttock muscles by sitting on top and finding a trigger point within the piriformis muscle with the back upright. 

Step 3: Create positive pressure into the side of the leg by rolling the medicine ball from the side of the hip and down to the side of the knee. You should use your none targeted leg and arms to push and pull against the ground to create movement and additional positive pressure. 

Step 4: Press into the muscle for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets.

Step 5: Ensure you alternate the buttock.

 

Exercise Four – Quadricep Foam Rolling (6)

Equipment Required: Spikey Foam Roller

Targeted muscle: Quadriceps

Muscle location and joint action: The quadricep are 4 muscles (Vastus lateralis, medialis, intermedialius, rectus femoris) otherwise known as the thigh muscles. These muscles are activated during flexion of the upper leg and extension at the knee (6).   

Step 1: Place a foam roller on the ground on top of a clean surface.

Step 2: Lie prone on the foam roller (front of thigh) starting from the top of the leg.  

Step 3:Create positive pressure by rolling the foam roller down and back up the upper leg, utilizing the non-targeted leg and arms.  

Step 4: Role for around 30-40 seconds. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets. 

Step 5: Ensure you alternate the limbs.

 

Exercise Five – Adductor Trigger Point Therapy/Massage 

Equipment Required: Hands

Targeted muscle: Adductors

Muscle location and joint action: These are 4 adductor muscles, and as the name suggests, they adduct (bring the upper leg closer to the body) and rotate the leg internally (bring the leg in vertically). 

Step 1: Sit on a chair with the feet flat on the floor and knee at an angle of around 90 degrees.

Step 2: Push your thumb along the inner portion of the thigh to find a trigger point.

Step 3: Either apply positive pressure into the stiff trigger point or massage all of the muscles using your palms.

Step 4: Apply positive pressure for around 30-40 seconds. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets. 

Step 5: Ensure you alternate the limbs

Additional information: This exercise is based on personal experience and practical application of the Myofascial Release Theory.

 

Exercise Six – Massage Stick Calf Rolling 

Equipment Required: Massage stick

Targeted muscle: Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Tibialis anterior 

Muscle location and joint action: The calf muscles are located at the back, side, and front of the lower leg and create movements like plantar flexion and dorsi flexion of the ankle (pressing the ball of the foot down and lifting the ball of the foot up).

Step 1: Sit on a chair with the feet flat on the floor and knee at an angle of around 90 degrees and create a back angle that allows you to reach down to the Achilles tendons (back of the foot).

Step 2: Grasp the massage stick from each end and roll it at the back, side, and front of the lower leg to release all of the surrounding muscles.

Step 3: Roll the calf for around 3-4 minutes at a time, ensuring all of the muscles are targeted, with extra emphasis on the tighter spots. Repeat this movement for 2-3 sets. 

Step 5: Ensure you alternate the limbs.

Additional information: This exercise is based on personal experience and practical application of the Myofascial Release Theory.

 

Conclusion

In order to ensure a fluid movement pattern during daily activities and athletic performance, we can target all muscles from the hips all the way down to the legs especially if certain areas feel tight and painful.

 

References

  1. Carr, J.H., &., Gentile, A.M. The effect of arm movement on the biomechanics of standing up. Human movement Sciences. 1994. 13(2): 175-193
  2. Sleivert, G., &., Taingahue. The relationship between maximal jump-squat power and sprint acceleration in athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2004: 91(1):46-52
  3. Schroeder, J., Renk, V., Braumann, K., et al. Acute Foam Rolling effects on contractile properties of the m. biceps femoris. German Journal of Exercise and Sport research. 2017:14 (4): 294-300
  4. Vaughan, B., McLoughlin, P., Lepley, A.S. Immediate changes in pressure pain threshold in the iliotibial band using a myofascial (foam) roller. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation. 2014; 21(12): 569-574
  5. Windisch, G., Braun, E.M., Anderhuber, F. Piriformis muscle: clinical anatomy and consideration of the piriformis Syndrome. Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy. 2007; 29(1):37-45.
  6. Monteiro, E.R., Noves, J.D.S., Cavanaugh, M.T., et al. Quadriceps foam rolling and rolling massage increases hip flexion and extension passive range-of-motion. Journal of Bodyworks and movement Therapies.2019; 23 (3): 575-580

Disclaimer: all of the information within this article is for educational purposes and is NOT intended as a personalized exercise prescription. No one can be held liable under the circumstances of damages, reparation, or monetary losses as a result of the information.

Article written by Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2020, he authored a book called ‘Obesity Decoded’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.