The Cheat Sheet

The Cheat Sheet

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The 5 Exercise Moves That Saved My NFL Career

After recovering from back surgery following his third season in the NFL, Nate Lawrie became dedicated to foam rolling as a way to extend his career. He says that one of the main reasons he was able to deal with his finicky lower back was foam rolling, which he did nearly every day, thereby extending his NFL career by another five years. Lawrie explains more:

The foam rolling techniques I practice are designed to loosen and improve the muscles that tie into the low back and hips, as well as align joints and vertebrae. They can have a major impact for someone who suffers from low back pain or sits for long hours. If you’re active, these are great moves to prevent injury and keep you in peak physical condition. The body is a chain, so it is vital for any self-maintenance practice to focus on the bigger picture. When you have a specific area you want to focus on, it’s vital that you attend to adjacent muscle groups in order to see great results. When it comes to the low back, you have muscles and connecting tissue that want to pull your spine and hips in a hundred different directions. If the area is not properly maintained, something is going to pull harder than it should and cause pain.

Lawrie did have one issue, however. “My love for foam rolling was only negated by my inability to have it when I needed it most,” he explains. “Foam rollers by nature are bulky and cumbersome. I wanted my foam roller with me when I was on the go — whether it was to an away-game, training at different gyms, or traveling in the off-season. It wasn’t an option with traditional rollers.”

Taking matters into his own hands Lawrie created the world’s first collapsible foam roller, The Morph, which just launched its Kickstarter campaign. For some foam rolling inspiration we asked the athlete to give us an exclusive look at the five moves, he says, saved his career and continue to help mitigate his back pain today.

Back adjustment and massage

Chest Stretch - Iulian

One of the best ways to start your day is with a quick roll along the entire spine to help adjust vertebrae, massage muscles, and release adhesions in the fascia, bringing you to a back-health utopia. The Morph is placed perpendicular to the spine.

Roll 1: Round back to isolate vertebrae and roll slowly along entire spine several times for a total of 30 seconds.

Roll 2: Find knots and use a short, rolling motion to release them for 30 seconds.

Finish with a chest-opener stretch. With The Morph beneath your thoracic spine, lace your fingers behind your head and allow your arms to stretch outward. Do this for 30 seconds.

lute massage and release

Piriformis Roll - Anya

This move is awesome for getting into the deep muscle tissue of the glutes. With a deep massage in this area, you can relieve tightness in the fascia and flush toxic buildup from the muscles. Cross your right leg over and rest your ankle on your left knee. The Morph should roll deeply into the right gluteus muscles. Slowly roll forward and backward to massage the muscle. Change your position slightly by rocking a bit to the left and right. Find tight areas and pause. Do this for 30 seconds on each side.

Hip flexor stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch - Iulian

People forget that back health is a two-sided affair and neglect the front side of their bodies — namely their hip flexors. If your hip flexors are tight, it’s going to pull your hips and lumbar spine out of alignment, causing pain. If you sit for long periods of time, your hip flexors are going to be tight. The best way to stretch this muscle group is on a standard-diameter foam roller. Put The Morph beneath your tailbone. Relax the down leg while grabbing one knee. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Piriformis stretch with IT band kicker

Piriformis Stretch - Anya

Side opener stretch

Side Opener - Anya

Few people know about this magical stretch, but it is the easiest way to loosen and release myofascial adhesions in the low back, and is a great way to get an oblique stretch. Hips and shoulders are vertically aligned. Put The Morph directly beneath the side of your hip bone. Relax into a deep stretch as low back tightness eases. Do this for 30 seconds on each side.