Ease Into Foam Rolling

Ease into foam rolling.
Massage your muscles with these popular foam roller exercises.

If you’ve ever used a foam roller, you know that they’re no joke. Foam rollers are great for breaking up scar tissue and giving your fascia, or connective tissue, a release.

Various kinds of foam rollers are available. I prefer the standard white ones that start to give a bit and break down over time. The thinking is that if you use your foam roller regularly, you won’t need to go as deep into the tissues when you progress compared to when you just started.

I’m not going to lie—foam rolling does not necessarily feel good. It’s akin to stretching when your muscles are really cold, and it’s something that is typically recommended during physical therapy, so listen to your body and back off when you need to.

Thighs and Hamstrings

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you with your feet flexed. Put the foam roller perpendicular under your left thigh. (The roller should only be under the one thigh for this exercise.) Press your palms into the floor for support and keep your foot flexed, but it can be slightly relaxed. You want the muscles in your thigh to be relaxed, but you also want to protect your knee. If it feels like too much pressure for your thigh/hamstring, bend your right knee and press your right foot into the floor. Start to move your weight forward and back, pressing your left leg into the roller. If you need to back off, press down on your hands to release some of the tension in your leg and then ease back into it. Try to maintain contact with the roller for 30 to 90 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Lay on your left side with your left foot flexed and the foam roller perpendicular underneath the side of your thigh. Take your right leg over your left leg, knee bent, pressing your right foot into the ground. Press into your hands in front of you and roll across the foam roller. Find the sticky spots in your muscles and try to stay there and breathe through it. Try to keep rolling through the sensation on each side for 30 to 90 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Spine and Back

One of my favorite ways to use a foam roller is to open up the back and spine. Lie on the roller with it placed along the length of your spine, not perpendicular. Let your body be supported by the roller with your limbs relaxed through the floor. Stay here and breathe for 60 to 90 seconds.

Next, ease up on the roller a little bit, and position the roller—still parallel with your body—directly right of your spine. Roll out the right side of your back to release the fascia connecting the back ribs. Let your feet take your weight and guide the roller. You should maintain contact with the roller but not let it roll across your spine in order to protect your back. Switch to the left portion of the back after about 90 seconds.

About author

Haley Greenwald-Gonella

Haley Greenwald-Gonella is a certified registered yoga teacher (200 RYT) with Yoga Alliance. She began dancing at the age of 3 and played flute and bassoon while growing up. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with degrees in dance and English. She has her master’s degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from the University of Southern California. In addition, Haley is a director focusing on technology and innovation in the beauty sector.

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