How to use a foam roller

Foam rollers are quickly becoming one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment. What was once exclusively used by elite athletes is more familiar to almost everyone for a variety of reasons. Foam rollers are popular because they can be used for a myriad of things and can offer many benefits. However, if you are not familiar with them, using one can be confusing. You may not know what to do with this cylinder-shaped piece of equipment. Luckily, learning to use a foam roller is easy and can be done by anyone.

Foam rolling for beginners

Once you have selected a foam roller that is appropriate for your activity and intensity level, you are ready to begin rolling. To start rolling, place the roller under the area of your body that you want to target. Apply a moderate amount of pressure to the area by using your bodyweight. Start rolling slowly underneath the area, ensuring that you are going no faster than one inch per second. If you find areas that are painful or tight, rest for several seconds and focus on breathing through the pressure you are feeling.

If done correctly, you will start to feel the muscle relaxing. After about five to 30 seconds, the pain should minimize. If you find the area is too painful when direct pressure is applied, move the foam roller to a surrounding area and slowly work to release the tension in the area. Take it slow, there is no need to overwork the muscles and cause an extreme amount of pain.

Over time, your muscles will be used to the sensation of foam rolling and it will become easier and less painful. Using the roller on a regular basis will help to keep knots out of the muscles, improve circulation and release stress.

Using the foam roller on your back

One of the most common areas to use a foam roller is on your back. This is great for beginners as well, because it is relatively easy. To relieve stress and release knots on your upper back, place the foam roller perpendicular to your back just underneath your shoulder blades. Place your feet flat on the floor and lift your hips. With your body weight, gently roll the foam roller up your upper back. Place pressure on any sore areas to work out knots.

To massage your entire back, place the roller on the ground and align your spine parallel directly on top of the roller. Ensure your body stays flat while you roll side to side on the roller. Make sure your had and your tailbone are both on top of the roller while you roll. These back exercises with the foam roller help to improve your posture.

For massaging the lower back, place the roller perpendicular across your lower back. Grab your right leg and hug it with your arms. Use the roller to gently roll from the base of your right side from the rib cage to the glutes. Try doing this about 10-12 times, then repeat on the other side of your back.

Using a foam roller on your legs

Our legs contain some of the biggest muscles in our body and they sure do take a beating. Many athletes, including runners, find great relief in using a roller to relieve their aching muscles. To foam roll on your hamstrings, extend the right leg in front while lowering yourself onto the floor. Comfortably place the left leg behind you. Position the foam roller underneath your right hamstring and allow enough room for your left hand to rest on the side. With both hands and bodyweight, roll back and forth for about 30 seconds. Rotate to the left side once done.

To use the foam roller on your calves, place the foam roller on the ground and lay the calf on the top. Rest the foot of the opposite leg on the floor and place hands on the ground behind you. Roll from the ankle to just behind the knee. Rotate the leg around to release knots on all sides. For increased pressure, stack your other leg on top.

To work knots out of the adductors, or inner thighs, lay on your stomach with one leg extended and one knee bent. Place the roller underneath the thigh of the bent leg. Roll from the knee to the inner thigh.

You can even use a foam roller on your feet. If you’ve had a long day in high heels or a long run, this is relaxing and helps to relieve stress. To massage your foot, stand with the foam roller under the arch of a foot. Apply pressure by using your body weight to roll forward and backward over the roller. To increase the pressure, increase the weight you’re applying or even stand on the roller with something sturdy to grab onto for balance.

Foam rollers have a variety of uses

The above exercises are only basic. A foam roller can be used on basically any part of the body. When using a foam roller, be sure to practice correct posture. Do not overexert yourself or apply too much pressure. As with any new exercise, it is wise to consult a physician before you start to foam roll. It may seem daunting at first, but with time and practice, you will most likely find that it will be one of the best ways to relieve stress and pressure. It can be a simple effective tool in your arsenal of exercise equipment.