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How to Use Foam Roller (The Secret to Muscle Recovery)

The foam roller is a popular tool to help athletes release muscle knots or trigger points. In fact, the density, texture, size and shape of foam rollers affect how they are used and what they do best. Take a look at our article to decide which foam roller suits you the best.

a man exercises with blue foam roller


When to use foam roller

Foam rolling can be done before and after your workout.

  • Before exercising, rolling increases tissue elasticity, range of motion and circulation (blood flow). This can help you move better during your workout and protect you from injury.
  • After a workout, foam rolling is a great way to increase resilience. By stimulating blood flow in the affected areas, you will significantly increase the amount of oxygen to the sore muscle fibers and decrease recovery time. In fact, most athletes get massaged regularly for this reason.
a woman exercises with black foam roller
Foam rolling can be performed prior to and after your workouts

Read about training plan: 6-Week 5K Training Plan for Beginner


How to use foam roller

When you first start learning how to use a roller, it is better to do gentle movements. Gradually increase the intensity afterward. Absolutely do not challenge yourself by doing exercises “extremely painful” from the beginning. It could cause bruising in your muscles or other related injuries.

Follow these steps to use your foam roller:

  • Identify muscle areas that are sore or tight.
  • Control your body as you slowly lower the targeted area so that it is centered above the roller.
  • Lower your body on the foam roller until you feel discomfort (but not pain) and keep it there.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds.
  • Continue to move slowly along the muscles with the roller, stopping and holding on to the areas where you need to focus more.

When you’re using a foam roller, experiment with small adjustments to your body position to find the technique that works best. Also, remember to breathe. As we often refer to in our writings, any type of movement should be associated with the breath.

a man exercises with foam roller outside
Remember to breathe when using a foam roller

Related: The Best Foam Rollers


Detail instruction of some popular foam roller exercises

Foam roller exercises are designed to target specific muscle groups. Try some exercises by taking the following steps:

1. Calf exercises

  • Turn the roller horizontally, rolling back and forth over the gastrocnemius (large calf muscle) and keeping the toe pointed toward the sky. 
  • Push with your hands behind you and keep your glutes slightly off the ground while rolling back and forth. 
  • Applying light to moderate pressure, roll 30 seconds to a minute on each side.


2. Iliotiological tape exercises (IT)

  • Lie on your side with the roller below your quadriceps.
  • Place the foot of the other leg on the floor in front of the foot of the roller. 
  • Support your upper body with the forearm closest to the ground and the hand of your other arm. 
  • Rollback and forth along the outer thigh from above the knee to just below the fattest part of the hip, pausing as you continue to hold the roller at specific points for 20-30 seconds. 
  • You can lean forward or back slightly to adjust the angle of the force applied to your IT strap.


3. Four-head muscle exercises

  • Lie face down with the roller under your lap (you can roll both sets at the same time or move one leg to the side and do leg by foot.). 
  • Place your elbows up and roll forward and back from behind.  on your knees to your hips.


4. Hamstring exercises

  • Sit upright, with one leg extended straight. 
  • Position the roller high up under the hamstrings so it’s just touching the glute. 
  • Lift your weight so that only your hands and foot are in contact with the floor and slowly glide back and forth along the thigh; stopping just before the fold in the back of your knee.


5. Supplement exercises

  • Lie on your stomach and extend one leg to the side with your knees bent. 
  • Place the foam roller near your groin on the side of the extended leg. 
  • Raise your elbows and roll your inner thighs, from the groin to just above your knees.


6. Gluteus Maximus (Glutes)

  • Sit on a foam roller with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.  
  • Support your upper body with your arms extending to the ground behind you. 
  • Now lift your right leg and place it on your left knee, making a pose similar to the yoga pose. 
  • Tilt to the right and roll forward and backward. Repeat on the left side.


7. Upper back exercises

  • Lie down on the foam roller, positioned just below your shoulder blades, between your back and perpendicular to your spine. 
  • Place your hands behind the nape to support your head, but be careful not to pull on the neck. 
  • Move your elbows inward and toward your chest to stretch your shoulder blades.  
  • Bend your knees, lift your butt off the ground and roll forward and back a few inches from the center of your back to below your neck. 
  • Take extra care to avoid both your neck and lower back.


8. Latissimi Dorsi (Lats) Exercise

  • Lie down to one side with the foam roller below your armpits and perpendicular to your body.  
  • Extend your lower arms to fit your body. 
  • You can place your arms and legs on top of your body, or place them on the floor in the front or back for support. 
  • Rollback and forth from the armpit to the middle body. 
  • Lean forward or backward for deeper muscle action. 
  • Repeat the exercise on the other side.

fitness woman exercises

In conclusion, foam rolling is now a comparatively new massage technique and focuses on myofascial release through self-massage. Follow our advice and see how a foam roller can bring you deep relaxation.


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