How to Use a Foam Roller: Best 15 Exercises for Your Entire Body

If you experience sore or tender muscles for any reason there are various ways to get some relief from the discomfort or pain. There are many causes of muscle soreness such as working out, stress, poor posture and injury. You can take medication or have a massage but another treatment is to use a foam roller.

Using a foam roller is like a deep tissue massage for the muscles that targets soft tissue called fascia. Fascia is a soft tissue that connects your muscles to bones and ligaments to provide support throughout your body. Medical studies have been carried out that say self massaging with a foam roller helps muscle soreness.

15 Ways to Use a Foam Roller

Let’s have a look at 15 ways to use a foam roller to massage various muscle groups. Each foam rolling exercise is different and the pressure that’s put on each muscle group will vary. Each exercise should be done for one to two minutes to get the best results.

Shoulder Roll

When you need to work on your shoulders you should lie on your back. Place the foam roller under both shoulders and raise your hips from the floor to put pressure on the shoulders. Gently roll for a few minutes making sure that you roll the left and right shoulder.

Here is a link to a YouTube video demonstrating a shoulder roll:

Neck Roll

If you have sore neck muscles you can use a foam roller but some care is needed as this area is fragile. All you need to do is lie on your back and place the foam roller under your neck. You don’t need to roll you just need to move your head left and right to work the muscle tissue.

Here’s a YouTube video guide on neck rolling:

Upper Back Roll

To work on the upper back you lie on the floor and place your foam roller under your upper back. You should then cross your arms over your chest which will push your shoulder blades out. You can raise your hips which transfers pressure to your upper back and then begin the rolling.

When you’re working on your upper back you’ll need to work on both sides. Transfer your weight to one shoulder blade and roll before shifting your weight to the other side. Alternating sides and working the mid to upper back gives the back muscles a good workout.

Below is a YouTube video showing how to foam roll your upper back:

Rhomboid Roll

When you need to treat your rhomboids the foam roller needs to be moved so that it’s vertical. Sit on the bottom end of the roller and lie down so that the foam roller is between your shoulder blades. Roll in the right side for a couple of minutes before repeating the process on the left side.

Watch this YouTube video for proper guidance on how to foam roll the rhomboids:

Lower Back Roll

The best way to work on your lower back is to be in a seated position and place your foam roller in your lower back area. You again need to cross your arms in front of you to push out the shoulders. You’ll then need to lean back onto your roller and raise your hips until you’re in contact with the foam roller.

When you’re working on your lower back it’s important not to put any pressure onto your spine. Work on the muscles either side of the spine by rolling up and down each side. When you’ve worked one side you should switch to the other until your time is up.

Below is a YouTube video showing a lower back foam roll:

Chest Roll

To work on your chest muscles you should place the foam roller on the floor and lie face down on the roller. The foam roller should be level with your shoulders and armpits. You should then extend one arm and roll back and forth and do the same on the other side.

When you’re working on your chest muscles you should work slowly and use small movements. Slow and small movements will help to release any tension that’s built up in your chest muscles.

Here’s a YouTube video guiding you on chest rolling:

Lats Roll

When you’re ready to work on your lats you should lie on your side and place your foam roller under your armpit. When the foam roller is in position your need to extend your arm out to your side. You then raise your upper body to put some weight on your lats.

Work on one set of lats by gently rolling before repeating the process with the other arm. Alternate from one side to the other for one to two minutes to unknot the muscles and to release tension.

Check out this YouTube video that demonstrates a lats roll:

IT Band Roll

The IT band is the area between your hip and knee and you can use your foam roller to work on these muscles. Lie on your side with the foam roller positioned under your hip. You should cross your other leg over the one to be worked on and support your body with your hands.

To begin the workout you should slide your leg over the foam roller working between the hip and knee. When you’ve worked for a minute or two you can repeat the exercise on your other leg. Foam rolling the IT band can be a little painful and you can use your hands to vary the pressure on the muscles.

This YouTube video shows you how to work your IT band:

Glutes Roll

When you work on your glutes you should place your foam roller on the floor and sit on it. Choose which side you want to work on and lean to that side with your arm extended behind you for support. Slowly roll back and forth for a couple of minutes to work the muscles and release any tension.

You can then switch to the other buttock and repeat the same process so that both sides have been worked equally. If you want to intensify things you can cross one leg over the other which puts more pressure on the glutes.

Watch this YouTube video demonstrating a glutes roll:

Groin Roll

You can also roll your groin (adductor muscles) with your foam roller when the muscles are knotted or sore. Lie on your front and place your foam roller on the floor and lift your knee and place it on the roller. You can then roll from the knee to the groin before swapping legs and working those muscles.

Below is a YouTube video showing you a groin roll with a foam roller:

Foam Roll Your TFL

To foam roll your TFL (tensor fasciae latae) you should lie on your side and place the foam roller at the top of your leg. Support your body with your hand or forearm and roll for a couple of minutes to work the muscles. Turn over and do the same workout on the other leg and it helps to rotate a little when working these muscles.

Below is a short YouTube video demonstrating TFL rolling:

Hamstrings Roll

To foam roll your hamstrings you’ll need to sit on the floor and place your foam roller under the back of your knees (but don’t put any excessive pressure at the knee point). Place your hands behind you for support and lift your butt to put body weight onto the foam roller. Begin by rolling from the back of the knee to about halfway up the back of the leg.

When you’ve completed the first part of the hamstring roll you can move down and work from halfway up the leg to the glutes. You can work on both legs at the same time or do them individually if you prefer. To intensify the pressure you can turn you toes inwards or outwards to release more muscle tension.

This YouTube video guides you on a hamstring roll:

Quadriceps Roll

When you’re ready to work on your quads you’ll need to place your foam roller on the floor and lie face down. The foam roller should be above the knees and you can roll from the knee working up the thigh. Turn the toes inwards and outwards to work on the inner and outer thigh muscles too.

When you’re working the front of your quads you can work on both legs at the same time. When you’re working inner and outer thigh muscles it’s better to work on them individually. You can increase the pressure with your arms and you can also lift the leg that’s not being worked on for more intensity.

Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating quad foam rolling:

Calf Roll

Working the calf muscles is a little more tricky as there’s not much bodyweight and the pressure put on muscles is reduced. Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your legs above the ankles. Place your arms behind you and roll from the ankle to midway up the calf and repeat with the other leg.

When you’ve worked the lower calf muscles you can work from midway up the calf to the back of the knee. Turning your toes inwards and outwards will work all areas of the calf muscle. To increase the pressure on the calf muscle you can place one leg over the other.

Below is a short YouTube video showing how to foam roll calf muscles:

Foam Rolling to Reduce Cellulite

You can also use foam rolling to reduce the appearance of cellulite and it works for some. You can roll your inner and outer thighs as well as your butt to reduce the cellulite. There’s no guarantee that this will work but there’s no harm in giving it a go.

Here’s a short YouTube video that explains foam rolling to reduce cellulite:

And Finally…

Using a foam roller to massage your muscles is an effective and safe way to get some relief from soreness and discomfort. As long as you’re sensible and you follow the guidelines on how to use the foam roller correctly you should see some benefits. Even if it’s a little painful at first you should persevere and your body’s muscles will thank you.

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