Have you ever had a massage? How did you feel after? Pretty good right? You feel a little (or a lot) more relaxed, and your muscles that were worked on feel loosened up.

Drive around in your local town and notice how many Massage Therapy Clinics there are. Have a look at how many Physiotherapy clinics there are that have Massage Therapists, Chiropractic Clinics with the same, Spa’s, you name it.

It’s not a mystery; having controlled pressure applied to your muscles makes them feel better. Whether you have injuries, or are stressed (who isn’t at times?) and holding tension, it works. Now imagine having the freedom to this anytime you wanted, for as little or as long you need it, and in your own home?

Drum Roll Please………….. Enter the Foam Roller!!

The Health Benefits of Foam Rolling your muscles are the same as getting a massage. Your muscles feel more relaxed, more flexible, and you can move better. And it’s waaaayyy cheaper (a decent roller will run you about 50 bucks).

Okay let’s be honest. Getting a massage is definitely easier. You lay on a table while someone finds the sore spots for you, but you can’t get a massage every day, not to mention it’s not cheap. Using a foam roller does require more work on your part, it is kind of like exercise, but once you get used to doing it, it’s pretty easy, and really effective!

It’s Knot Easy at First

Sorry, I had to make just one Knot joke, there won’t be anymore, promise.

Foam rolling isn’t easy to do at first. It will feel awkward to roll your body around on a foam cylinder, and it looks a little foolish. We are totally aware of this, that’s why it’s nice to do it at home.

Overtime, as you do it more, just like any form of exercise it will get easier and you will move more fluently over your foam roller.

 

No Pain, No Gain!

The most infamous statement in the world of Fitness. Having worked with so many clients with injuries, I really don’t like this statement. When clients say it to me I correct them by saying the exact opposite. If an exercise causes you pain, not a muscle burning, but actual pain, then stop.

If it hurts, don’t do it, unless we are talking about foam rolling. That’s where this statement definitely holds true. In fact, we could alter it to say:

Look For Pain, Experience the Gain!

That’s right! When you foam roll, you are looking for the sore areas in muscles, or what we like to call “hot spots”. These are areas of localized muscle tension that might even feel like a knot, or a bump in your muscle.

The technical term for these areas of localized muscle tension are trigger points. They can come from placing extra stress on a particular portion of a muscle. They can manifest from poor posture, poor movement habits, stress, overuse, under use.

The science behind how a trigger points forms is beyond the scope of this article. My intention is to help you understand that we all have them, they hurt, and a foam roller can help alleviate them.

It’s important to mention that there are many types of foam rollers available now. So which one is right for you? Allow me to explain.

The Density Determines the Intensity

What do I mean by this? Well a Foam Roller has three main qualities that determine what it can be used for:

  1. Length – I’ve seen foam rollers in 1, 2 and 3 foot lengths. To be honest, the length doesn’t really matter when we are talking about just foam rolling your muscles. We do use the 3-foot rollers for some other exercises. We will talk about this in a future post
  2. Diameter – I don’t know the exact measurements here, but I think I have only seen 2 diameters in foam rollers. Shelley and I own 7, so it might be a decent guess. The smaller diameter the roller, the better for getting more targeted on any given muscle.
  3. Density – This is the most important factor. Foam rollers come in varying densities. Again in our experience, we have seen about 3 kinds of density. Soft, medium, and hard. The harder the roller, the more pressure you are applying to your muscle tissue. Foam rolling can be really uncomfortable at first, downright painful actually. Don’t worry though, over time as your muscles adapt, it becomes much more bearable. You will either love it, or hate it. It’s one of those things, but it will help. Stick with it, and you will feel better.

Foam Rolling Tutorial

Okay so let’s get started. We are going to show you how to foam roll all the major areas/muscle groups on your body. We will start from the bottom and work our way up. For each muscle, you can spend around 60sec working on it. You can certainly spend longer than this, especially if you find areas that are particularly sore. We call these sore areas of a muscle “hot spots”.

Once you have viewed all the videos, we have listed a little more explanation on how often you should foam roll, when is the best time to foam roll, and are there any contraindications to foam rolling.

Enjoy!

 

Lower Leg/Calves

Start by resting the back of your lower legs on the foam roller. Rest your hands behind you on the floor/mat for support. Now follow these steps:

  1. Lift your hips off the floor and slowly roll from your achilles tendon up to just below the back of your knee
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can increase pressure by doing one leg at a time, and eventually crossing the resting leg over the working leg
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

Notice the varying ways to increase the amount of pressure on my calves. Take your time with increasing pressure, as you may find the muscle quite tender at first

Posterior Thigh/Hamstrings

Start by resting the back of your thighs on the foam roller. Rest your hands behind you on the floor/mat for support. Now follow these steps:

  1. Lift your hips off the floor and slowly roll from just above the back of your knee to just below your hip bone (known as your ischial tuberosity, or the bone you feel when you sit on a hard surface)
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can increase pressure by doing one leg at a time, and eventually crossing the resting leg over the working leg
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

It can feel a little awkward to foam roll at first, but once you get used to it, it’s easy to maneuver yourself over your roller

Posterior Hips/Glutes

Start by sitting your hips directly on the foam roller. Rest your hands behind your on the floor/mat for support. Straighten your working leg while keeping the non-working leg bent at the knee for support. Lean to the side of the working/straight leg. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from just above your “sitting bone” to just below the crest of the back of your pelvis (you can feel this if you put your hands on your hips, like when you are about to lecture one of your kids, also known as your iliac crest)
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can increase pressure by crossing your working leg over your resting leg. Ouch!!
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

You may feel some pain down your leg when you roll your glutes. That’s normal and known as referral pain

Lateral Hip/TFL

TFL stands for Tensor Fasciae Latae, or as I like to call it, the coffee muscle (get it? Latae.. Sorry.. lol). This is a small muscle that is right below your anterior hips bones (if you place your hands on your hips again, your fingers should be resting on this bone, also known as your anterior superior iliac spine or ASIS for short).

It can get pretty tight from all the sitting we all do now-a-days. To roll it, start by laying to one side on your roller and locate your hip bone. Place yourself just beneath it on the roller. I’m sorry if this one sounds a little confusing, thank you videos!. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from just beneath your hip bone to just above your lateral hip bone. It’s not a big area, so take your time, play around and you will find it. It can be pretty sore, you might be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised.. lol
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can increase pressure by stacking your legs
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

This one can be a little tricky at first. Notice how small of an area I am working on

Anterior Thigh/Quads

Start by laying your upper thighs over the foam roller, with your forearms resting on the floor, as if you were about to perform a plank. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from just above your knee caps to just below your anterior hips bones
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can increase the pressure by rolling one thigh at a time, and eventually crossing your non-working leg over your working leg
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

This one tends to be sore on almost everyone. You may feel bumps as if you are rolling over a climbing rope! Ouch!

Lateral Thigh/ITB

Your ITB stands for Iliotibial Band. It’s basically a giant tendon that runs the length of your lateral thigh to your knee. It connects your glutes/TFL to your knee. I’m not a big fan of rolling this, as it can be really painful, causing you to hold your breath. I wanted to include it, however, as some people do find it beneficial to roll.

To set-up, you will want to lay the side of your thigh on the foam roller. Your bottom side forearm will rest on the floor/mat, and top side hand will also be on the floor for support. Flex your top side hip and knee, so your leg is resting on the floor in front of you, giving additional support. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from just above your knee to just below your lateral hip bone (also know as your greater trochanter of the femur)
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas. There will be a few…
  3. You can increase the pressure by resting your non-working leg on top of your working leg. Hang on for dear life!
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

As mentioned, this can be really painful at first. Notice how I kept my head down in the video, so you can’t see my grimace!

Inner/Medial Thigh/Adductors

Start by laying your inner thigh over the foam roller. It’s best to bend your hip and knee to right angles, allowing you to really focus on the inner thigh/adductor muscles. Your nonworking leg is straight, and your forearms are resting on the floor/mat. Now follow these steps:
  1. Start by rolling from just above your knee to where your inner thigh ends and pelvis begins
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. You can’t really increase the pressure with this one, other than letting your leg really sink into the foam roller
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

You may be surprised by how sore your adductors can be when you get in close to your hip

Lower Back/Lumbar Erectors/QL

QL stands for Quadratus Lumborum, a muscle in your lower back that runs between the pelvis and lowest rib/lumbar spine. This foam rolling exercise works on this muscle as well as your lower back erectors (the muscles that run right next to your spine).

To set-up, sit on the floor and place the foam roller snug up against your lower back. Now with both hands on the roller lift your hips so your lower back rests on the foam roller. Now slightly lean to one side and rest that same side elbow on the floor behind you. Follow these steps:

  1. Roll from just above the top of your pelvis to around the mid-back region. It will take some practice to get used to this one
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. To target your QL muscle, focus on leaning to the working side more and keep the foam roller in the between the pelvis and rib cage
  4. You can increase pressure by leaning more weight onto the roller
  5. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

A little tricky at first, just take your time and you’ll get the hang of it. Notice my support elbow is a good distant from the roller. This helps to support my body and control the rolling better

Mid/Upper Back/Thoracic Spine

To set-up for this one, lay back on the foam roller so that it’s resting around the middle of your spine. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck. Pull your elbows in to move your shoulder blades out of the way. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from your mid back to the top of your shoulder blades. For this one, make sure to not roll too low. You have no support behind you when you get down to your lower back, and it’s not very comfortable
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. To increase pressure, you can try a roller with more density
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

We all spend too much time hunched over looking at screens. This will help work on those elongated upper back muscles. Clients tend to like this one, so hopefully you do too

Lats/Teres Major

Lay your side on the foam roller with your arm over your head and out of the way. It’s up to you how to place your legs, just make sure you are comfortable and can use your legs to help you roll over the muscle. Now follow these steps:

  1. Start by rolling from about half-way up your rib cage to underneath the back of your arm-pit. Your Lat is a large muscle so take your time to feel the whole thing on the roller
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas
  3. To increase pressure, you can try a roller with more density, or lift your hips up more to increase the weight on the roller
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

Another sore one, as always take your time and keep your breathing. If it’s really tender, just rest on the area instead of rolling

Posterior Shoulder

This one hits a lot of muscles (teres major/minor, infraspinatus, lat and posterior deltoid). It sets up exactly like the lat roll, except you start with the roller resting just behind your arm-pit. Place your working side arm above your head, resting on the floor. Now follow these steps:

  1. Instead of rolling up and down, rotate your body back and forth over the roller. Again, thank you for videos.
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas. This one can hurt, just warning you.. lol
  3. To increase pressure, you can place your working side arm behind your head and off floor
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

I have yet to meet a person that does not find rolling this area sore. You might get some referral pain down your arm. Don’t be alarmed, it’s normal, just like the Glutes

Posterior Neck

Ever have a tension headache? You might be surprised that it could be coming from some tightness in the back of your neck. This roller exercise might be able to help. Set-up by laying the base of your skull on the foam roller. Now follow these steps:

  1. Pull your chin in and slowly rotate your head left and right
  2. Pay attention to any “hot spots”; areas that are more sore. Spend a little more time on these areas. Most clients we have shown this to you, really like it
  3. To increase pressure, you can pull the chin in more to drive more weight down into the roller
  4. Maintain you’re breathing throughout, don’t hold your breath

 

Shelley came up with this one, and I’m thankful she did, because it feels great. If you have a sore neck or tension headaches, rolling this area can help

 

What’s Next?

We hoped you enjoyed this post, and as always, found it informative. Learning to foam roll is a valuable tool, especially if you want to start working out. It’s the first thing we work on with every client, right after they have been assessed. It’s that important to us!

Next up we will be talking about how to properly warm-up before a workout. Foam rolling is a form of warm-up, but we want to talk about specific warm-up exercises to help prepare your body for a strength training workout.

Feel free to leave us a comment or ask us any questions you may have about our post. Thank you 🙂

Rodney and Shelley

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *