Introduction to Foam Rolling Exercises
One of the wisest choices you can make to improve your workouts, overall muscle tissue and posture is by using foam roller exercises.
I currently use a Rollga Foam Roller which is the best quality foam roller I’ve ever used plus it has ingenious grooves which allows you to target muscles rather than bones and joints.
Foam rolling does not need to be complicated, keeping the movements simple but rolling frequently is the secret to success.
3 Foam Roller Benefits
1 – Warm Up & Muscle Activation
Using a foam roller before your workouts will help bring fresh blood and stimulation to your muscles. Touching a muscle excites it so foam rolling can help activate muscles that often get neglected before a workout.
Related: How to use kettlebell warm up exercises
2 – Reduce Injury
When soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) experience trauma through exercise and daily life they create small amounts of scar tissue and adhesions.
Scar tissue creates vulnerability and weak areas in the soft tissue and prevents smooth movement. Foam rolling can help iron out and reduce scar tissue if perform regularly.
3 – Improve Posture
Sitting and spending time in awkward positions forces the body to create additional collagen to maintain position.
Thick build up of this protein reinforces bad position and limits movement. Regular foam rolling can help break down and soften this collagen leading to improved movement and posture.
Related: 11 kettlebell exercises to improve posture
When to Use Your Foam Roller
There is never really a bad time to use your foam roller but here are 3 possibilities:
Before your workout
I highly recommend rolling before each workout, you don’t need to spend too long only 30-60 seconds on each movement. You will find that rolling at this time will reduce your potential of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout. Think of it as a foam roller warm up.
After your workout
Rolling after your workout is another option but should be thought of as more of a cool down. Your tissue at this stage will be very warm and pliable so you are less likely to get as much benefit from rolling at this time.
Away from your workouts
Another good time to roll is on off days or in the evenings. I’ll often roll if I’ve been sitting down for a while to open up the body and stimulate blood flow for healing purposes.
Related: Everything you need to know about muscle soreness
9 Foam Roller Exercises
Listed below are the 9 foam roller stretches which are believe are worth your time. You only need to spend 30-60 seconds on each movement. You can think of the exercises as a foam roller workout! Take your time and learn to identify areas that need further attention.
1 – Glutes
Let’s start with a great foam roller warm up exercise.
Almost everyone can benefit from foam rolling their Glutes or Buttocks, you can even get into the problematic Piriformis muscle. You don’t have to put your muscle under slight tension like I have done here by crossing my leg over but I find it helps.
Related: 7 Best Glute Exercises Using Kettlebells
Related: 9 sciatica stretches and exercises that actually work
2 – Lateral Thigh / IT Band
Rolling the lateral thigh can be very painful so make sure you take some of the pressure away from the area by using your arms. Don’t roll down and onto the knee joint.
3 – Glute Medius / Minimus
A very important muscle attachment point so well worth spending some time here. Avoid rolling the hip joint itself and keep the movements small and focused.
4 – Quads / Hip Flexors
Roll down to just above the knee and up and into the hip flexors. You may want to spend some time in the hip flexor area at the top first and then later down and onto the quad.
5 – Hamstrings
This is a relaxing movement for most people and not as aggressive on the muscle tissue as many of the others. Cross one leg over for additional pressure.
Related: 8 Hamstrings Exercises for Runners
6 – Latissimus Dorsi
This area can be very sensitive so it is worth taking a lot of care. Body position is essential so try to work into the large Latissimus Dorsi muscle slightly behind the centreline.
7 – Upper Back / Rhomboids / Trapezius
Here’s a great foam roller exercise for the upper back.
Feels great this movement. Keep the arms crossed to expose the muscle tissue of the upper back and hide the shoulder blades.
8 – Erectors
The long muscles that run up either side of the spine can be massaged with this movement. Keep the lateral rolls small and be careful not to roll too far!
9 – T Spine Opener
If you sit down or hunch over a computer daily then this exercise will help open up the vertebrae of the upper back. Take your time and be sure to breathe. Don’t let the roller roll too far down towards your lower back.
Using a foam roller is one of the best ways to improve your muscle tissue and help reduce injuries, improve your posture and makes a sensible start to your workout.
Start slow, work on those tight areas and you’ll be loving the way your new body feels in no time.
You can purchase the Rollga Foam roller I use here
[ I’ve included some links above that are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission will not affect the original price or the price you pay. ]
To see more posts about prehab and rehab advice, go here.
Do you use a foam roller? Leave any questions or comments below…
In the video you recommend doing these exercises after a work out, but in the written article you suggest doing them before a workout. Does it matter if I use the foam roller before or after a workout? Are both equally effective? Thanks, Laura
Greg Brookes says
Good question Laura. The foam roller can be used to warm up muscle tissue but you have to be careful that you do not completely adjust muscle and soft tissue tension levels too much before a workout because they can leave the body unbalanced. You are using a foam roller and that is a great start. My advice is to roll lighter before workouts and deeper afterwards or later in the day.
These look awesome. Will do them for sure. Curious why you left out the calves?
Greg Brookes says
Yes you can work on other areas too like the calves and adductors, I always find rolling the calves quite awkward so I left it out.
Sean Giles says
Thanks Greg this looks great! Can you recommend a foam roller to purchase our are they mostly the same?
Greg Brookes says
I’ve tried a lot of variations Sean, my advice would be to avoid the one’s with lumps and bumps they do not roll well. 4″ diameter is best for thoracic mobility. Make sure the foam is high density but not too hard.