8 Foam Roller Exercises for Your Entire Body

How to Use a Foam Roller – 8 Exercises to Boost Recovery and Flexibility

 

What is foam rolling and why is it good for me?

Foam rolling – the muscle massage technique that hurts so good! Foam rolling is quickly growing in the fitness world. It’s used for self-myofascial release, or self-massage, by millions of people, not just athletes, and not just for exercise purposes. Gone are the days of paying hefty fees to visit the local massage therapist once a month. The foam rolling phenomenon has made it possible to give yourself a massage every day, any place.

Foam rolling applies sustained pressure to the myofascia, which is the tough, flexible “spider web” that surrounds and covers muscles and bones. Applying pressure stretches the tissue, releases restrictions (trigger points or “knots”), and restores elasticity and movement. Foam rolling can be used for pre-workout stretching, post-workout recovery, trigger point therapy, physical therapy, and of course, to give yourself a relaxing message after a long day at work!

How do I foam roll?

You can use the following comprehensive list of exercises to start foam rolling today. All you need is a few minutes a day to maintain your muscle health, but roll SLOWLY – don’t rush it or you won’t get the maximum benefit. While rolling, when you find a tender spot or a “knot” in your muscle network, SLOW your ROLL and rock gently from side to side on the knot. It WILL be uncomfortable. That’s the roller doing work! You have to roll regularly to keep the muscles relaxed, loose, and free of restrictions.  Remember to always roll responsibly – no rolling on injured areas, and consult with your physician to ensure your body is healthy for foam rolling.

If you need a foam roller, check out our products page or find us on Amazon.com.

 

1. GLUTES

Roll your glutes back and forth on the roller. Shift your weight to apply pressure to each side.   Don’t get too comfortable – this is the most relaxed rolling exercise!

 

2. HAMSTRINGS

Let’s get it going on your hamstrings! Using your hands to keep your butt off the floor, SLOWLY roll back and forth from your glutes to just before the knees. Overlap your legs to intensify pressure. When you feel a knot, apply sustained pressure. Remember, it’s supposed to hurt!

 

3. CALVES

Get in a similar position to the hamstrings exercise. This time, roll from your ankles to just below the knees. If pressure is too intense, lift your legs up slightly.

 

4. QUADS

This one is intense! Using your elbows to hold your upper body up, SLOWLY roll back and forth on your quads from your hip flexors to just above the knees.

 

5. BACK

Roll on your back from your upper back to the top of your lower back. Raise your elbows up to get the shoulder blades out of the way and work trigger points under the shoulder blades. You should not roll the lower back because your rib cage, which protects the spine from excessive force, does not extend to the lower back.

 

6. LATS

Lay on one side and place the roller on your lat. Gently roll from lat to tricep. You can also stay in one position, with the roller just below your armpit, and raise your arm up and down.

 

7. IT BAND

Get in a side position and roll back and forth from just above your knee to just below the waist.

 

8. PERONEUS LONGUS

Get in a similar position as the IT band exercise, but this time roll from your ankle to just below the knee.

 

These 8 exercises should give you a solid start for your foam rolling routine. You can then expand on these to target specific muscles as needed. For more exercises and information on foam rolling, check out our posts on foam rolling the back, stretching the hip flexors, and stretching vs foam rolling. If you would like to receive information like this and be first in line to receive discounts on Peace of Muscle products, sign up as a VIP Member – all you need is an email address!

Benefits of Foam Rolling Upper Back

A great many of us have jobs that require sitting in front of a computer or driving for 6-8 hrs a day. It is inevitable that most of us will at some point experience upper back pain as a result. When working from a sitting position, one needs to focus on posture – straight back, relaxed shoulders, erect neck and computer at eye level. In doing so, we can help prevent a curved spine and forward neck. However, working on keeping a straight back can cause our back muscles to stiffen up and contract. These contractions can cause trigger points and pain over time, especially adjacent to the shoulder blades, that must be eliminated to maintain a healthy back. In this article, I will show you how to fix upper back pain using a foam roller. This exercise works to relieve pain whether you have a sore back after lifting weights or you have a tight back from prolonged sitting.

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  1. Sitting on the floor, place the foam roller behind you and lie back on it, with the roller even with your shoulder blades.
  2. Raise your butt so that you are supported only by the foam roller and your feet.
  3. Begin to roll along your upper back, using your hips to power you back and forth. You may hear some pops along your spine. This is your spine realigning, which is a good thing, as long as the pops are not painful.
  4. Foam Rolling Trick: Typically, upper back pain, whether from working out or sitting for a long period of time, occurs under the shoulder blades. To work on these trigger points, try squeezing your elbows up in front of your face. This will move the shoulder blades out of the way and allow you to roll out the trigger points in that area.

It is important to do this exercise regularly. If you don’t, trigger points and deposits can build up over time, making it more difficult to work them out. Foam rolling the back can also help to realign the back and circulate nutrients and oxygen through the back muscles and along the vertebrae.

THE SECRET YOUR MASSAGE THERAPIST DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW: Often times, it is thought that massage therapy is the solution for muscle pain. The problem is, massage therapy is not cheap.  $70 for a one-hour session is pretty typical. But you can use a foam roller to do the same work of a massage therapist. The cost saving is immense, and you don’t even need to leave the house!

Recapping Benefits of Foam Rolling the Back

  • Reduce tightness and relieve pain
  • Work out painful mineral deposits
  • Improve posture
  • Realign spine

WARNING: Do not foam roll your lower back. It is safe to foam roller the upper back since your rib cage protects the spine. But foam rolling your lower back can put excessive pressure on the spine and can cause more harm than good. If you have lower back pain, the cause may actually be tight hip flexors. Check out my other article to learn how foam rolling can relax tight hip flexors and reduce lower back pain.

 

How to Relax and Stretch Tight Hip Flexors

I have always had a bad habit of sleeping in a fetal position. My massage therapist used to tell me with a finger wag, “Don’t do that!” Well, she was right, but it is the only way I can sleep comfortably.  One reason why it’s not a good idea to sleep in a fetal position is that it tightens your hip flexor muscle groups, which can then affect your lower back and posture.

About two times a week, I wake up with tight hip flexors, which resonates to my quadriceps, and affects my back. The hip flexors are several muscle groups that connect your pelvis and abdomen to your thigh bone. They help raise your knees and lower your abdomen. Sprinters put a lot of strain on these muscle groups when they rapidly pull their knees to their abdomens, and soccer (or futbol) players do the same when they powerfully kick the ball. But the most common person that may suffer from tight hip flexors is the desk jockey who sits in a chair for eight hours a day. When you have tight hip flexors, it pulls in your abdomen towards your quadriceps, which then pulls in your lower back towards your abdomen. This can cause lower back pain and loss of free mobility.

Anterior Hip Muscles 2.PNG
By Beth oharaOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=545389

Foam rolling the hip flexors is a very effective way to alleviate the tightness. When I wake up with tightness in this area, I use the 13″ Honeycomb Foam Roller to roll out the multiple muscle groups, and I honestly can say it feels heavenly. Here’s how to do it:

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1. Get on all fours with your knees on the floor
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2. Place the foam roller in front of one of your knees; lower your elbows to the floor and move out your other knee so it is out of the way of the roller
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4. Lower your upper quad onto the roller and begin to roll back and forth
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5. Roll out the hip flexor groups one by one, adjusting your position to put pressure on different groups
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6. Adjust the pressure as needed by picking your weight up or lowering your weight down using your elbows; use this opportunity to extend the roll to your quadriceps

After loosening up the muscle groups using the foam roller, it is a good idea to stretch them out. This stretch is called the runners lunge. Here’s how to do it:

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1. Find a wall or stationary object that you can push on and stabilize yourself with 2. Stand facing the wall, with about one feet between your toes and the wall 3. Placing your hands on the wall to stabilize yourself, step one leg way back to get in a lunge position

You should feel a nice stretch on your hip flexors. Moving your bent knee forward will increase the stretch, and raising the heel of your back leg also helps to increase the stretch on the hip flexors.

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A simpler version of the stretch that you can do just about anywhere, anytime.

Use these exercises to relax your tight hip flexors when they are causing discomfort. Remember, to help keep the discomfort away, foam roll and stretch regularly. This will keep the muscles relaxed, keep the fascia free of restrictions, and increase the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscle fibers.

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Peace of mind, Peace of Muscle

Check out my article Case Study: Stretching vs Foam Rolling – Relaxing Tight Hamstrings, Specifically the Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus Groups to get some practical insights on hamstring pain and injuries.

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