6 Foam Roller Exercises for Beginners

Have you heard about the benefits of foam rollers? Foam rollers are a popular fitness tool that helps to release knots in muscles and soothe sore muscles. It’s like giving yourself a massage to relieve tight spots that are caused by muscle imbalance, overuse, injuries, and more. 

Using a foam roller can be a difficult process, but the results are well worth it. Once you work through the discomfort, you’ll notice benefits like:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Lowered level of soreness
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Injury prevention through maintaining muscle length and remedying tightness
  • Increased blood flow and elasticity of muscle tissue and joints, which helps with mobility, well-being, and a smoother appearance of fat underneath your skin
  • Improved relaxation

There are three things you should know before you begin using foam rollers as part of your fitness routine: when to use a foam roller, how to use a foam roller, and specific exercises to try with your foam roller.

When Should You Use a Foam Roller?

Foam rollers can be used at any time for general muscle soreness and do not typically require a warm up before use. Some people use foam rollers when they first wake up to ease tightness or soreness that can occur from lying in the same position all night. Others prefer to use a foam roller right before bed to ease muscle aches from a long day.

Active individuals and athletes should use a foam roller immediately before or after their workout. When used before a fitness routine, foam rollers may help loosen up muscles and allow for a better performance during the workout. When used following a workout, you can help reduce muscle soreness and shorten recovery time.

How Do You Use a Foam Roller?

When you first begin using foam rollers, you may find them uncomfortable. It’s best to get a lower density roller and be extra gentle in your movements. You can adjust your intensity as you learn and become accustomed to the feel. 

Seek out that “good” pain that lets you know you are working out muscles, but not hurting them. If you push too hard, you won’t speed up results, but rather you might injure or bruise your muscles. 

All you need is a foam roller and open floor space to use a foam roller. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the sore or tight muscle area.
  2. Slowly lower your body so that the target area is centered above the roller.
  3. Lower yourself onto the foam roller until you feel discomfort, but not pain and hold yourself there for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Stay relaxed. You may have the urge to tense up, especially if you feel discomfort, but you want to stay loose. Concentrate on keeping your shoulders pulled away from your ears.
  5. While the pressure by itself provides benefits, you can also slowly roll back and forth to further stimulate the muscles.
  6. Engage your core to ensure that your hips aren’t sagging and your alignment doesn’t get out of shape.
  7. In most cases, the soreness or tightness is in more than one pinpoint, so you’ll need to slowly move along the roller, exposing other areas to the pressure and holding.

Whenever it feels tight, tender, or painful, then stop. You don’t want to aggravate an already painful area. As you apply pressure, remember to slowly inhale and exhale. Many people get so focused on the activity that they forget to breathe. It’s essential that you move in sections rather than treating your body in a large continuous area. Focus on one section, hold or gently roll back and forth, then move onto the next section. 

How Do You Foam Roll Effectively?

Learning proper foam roller exercises is important in your goal to stretch and massage those painful muscle areas. Below are a few exercises that you might want to try.

Foam Roller Calf Exercise

  • Sit on the ground and place the foam roller under the calf of one extended leg. Rest your other foot on the floor while bending your knee.
  • Extend your arms behind you on the floor, leaning your weight on them to lift your butt off the floor slightly.
  • Begin rolling from your ankle to just below your knee. Move slowly and when you reach a sore spot, hold still for 20 to 30 seconds before continuing.
  • To work the sides of your calf, rotate your leg inward and outward as you roll.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Keep your ankle flexed while rolling in order to engage the calf muscle. To increase the intensity, place your free foot on top of your shin so that your calf presses harder on the roller. View the foam roller calf exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpVMZziJeY8

Foam Roller Iliotibial (IT) Band Exercise

  • Lie down on your side with the roller under your quad muscle. Bend your knee and place the foot of your other leg flat on the floor in front of the leg that’s on the roller.
  • Support your body with the forearm that’s closest to the ground and the hand of your other arm.
  • Slowly roll along the outer thigh from above your knee to just below the hip bone. As you reach tight or sore spots, hold the roller in place for 20 to 30 seconds. Roll up and down the thigh.
  • You can lean slightly forward or back to adjust the location of the pressure on your thigh.

Watch an IT band foam roller exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI9qLfSlCuI 

Foam Roller Quadriceps Exercise

  • Lie face down on the floor with the roller under your thigh(s). You can either roll each leg individually or work them both at the same time. 
  • Prop yourself up on your elbows, not your palms, and roll forward and backward, beginning just above the knee to the hip.
  • You can focus the stretch on one side by shifting your body weight or crossing your legs.

View this quadriceps foam roller exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxDCoeb79aE 

Foam Roller Hamstring Exercise

  • Sit on the ground with your foam roller under your thighs, extending your arms behind you for support. 
  • Roll back and forth beginning above the knee to below your buttocks.
  • You can roll both legs at once or move one off to the side to work just one hamstring at a time.

Watch a foam roller hamstring exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLswx0vSvtk

Foam Roller Upper Back Exercise

  • Lie down on the foam roller so that it is located just below your shoulder blades, perpendicular to your spine. You’ll want a longer roller, about 24” to 36” in length, in order to cover the entire width of your back.
  • Keep your feet on the floor for balance and place your hands behind your neck to support your head. Do not pull on your neck.
  • Bring your elbows in and toward your chest to protract your shoulder blades.
  • Keep your knees bent and lift your butt off the ground. 
  • Roll back and forth from your mid-back to just below your neck. Do not roll on your neck or your lower back.

Watch the upper back foam roller exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or5CUl4vZ88 

Foam Roller Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) Exercise

  • Lie down on one side with the foam roller under your armpit and perpendicular to your body. Extend your lower arm in line with your body and your thumb pointed upward.
  • Your upper arm and leg can be relaxed against your body or placed on the floor in front of or behind you for support. Do whatever is most comfortable for you.
  • Slowly roll back and forth beginning with your armpit down to your mid-torso.
  • Lean your body forward or backward to reach different positions on the muscle.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Watch the Foam Roller Lats Exercise here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKpBcunX5aA

Is Foam Rolling a Good Exercise?

Using foam rollers can give you many benefits, such as freedom from pain, release of tight muscles, reduced overall stress, and increased flexibility. However, it’s important to properly use foam rollers with the exercises listed above. 

Heskett Family Chiropractic proudly serves Morristown, Rogersville, East Knoxville, Dandridge, and the surrounding areas of Hamblen County, Tennessee.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

Picture of Dr. Michael Heskett

Dr. Michael Heskett

Dr. Michael Heskett, founder of Heskett Family Chiropractic, is blessed to serve the Lakeway area across multiple locations, passionately creating a healing environment where every patient is treated like family.


Feel Better Faster...

Share This Article


Please select the location you visited: