Muscle Rollers: How to Use a Foam Roller

How to Use a Muscle or Foam Roller

In a previous post we talked just about what muscle rollers are and some of the benefits that research has suggested about these simple devices.

many people do not use muscle rollers correctly

Learning about muscle rollers is easy, and understanding the basic concepts behind them is as well. However, you will repeatedly see people not using them correctly or what they are intending for.

In this post we are going to dive into how to use muscle rollers, when are good times to foam roll, and touch on some of the best spots for using muscle rollers to be used on (i.e. back, calves, legs).

The fact is, muscles rollers can be used at any time of the day. Most notably as we talked about in our previous posts, muscle rollers are great for the muscles that have been frequently worked out, possibly overused, muscles of which are tight (have knots or trigger points), as well as other reasons.

In fact, REI states that some people use muscle rollers in the morning, others at night, and that athletes may be served best, using them immediately before or after there workouts.

Tips for Beginners on How to Foam Roll!

Tips for using foam rollers

Tip #1

When first starting out using muscle rollers, make sure to foam roll to a point of "good" pain and not "bad" pain. Meaning, if you cross over into the realm of "ouch that really hurts" you are rolling to hard and need to take it a bit easier on yourself.

Tip #2

Start slightly away from the targeted area of discomfort/tightness and ease your way into the target area.

Tip #3

Start slowly muscle rolling away from the targeted area

Slow roll: This is not a race to see how fast you can roll your muscle, it's suppose to be"massage-like" helping you break up the collagen and slowly release the knot (trigger point).

Tip #5

Pay attention to the size of your foam roller in conjunction to the muscle group your working. You will most likely need a larger foam roller for your back then your calves, as an example.

Tip #6

Yoga mats work great!

The General Idea

Step One

Know your target area. Some people have more problematic areas then others, which may take more effort. Understand your body.

Step Two

Gradually make your way down to the roller so that your target area is just off center with the roller.

Step Three

Start to allow some of your weight onto the roller. You may still feel slight discomfort being just off center with your pressure point area.

Step Four

Start to slowly roll, you should still be off center of your main target area so that way you can ease your way into/onto that spot.

Step Five

Ease into the main target area and hold for 10-20 seconds, you will feel pressure, but it should not be "bad" pain.

Step Six

Now that the muscles around your target spot are warmed up, and you have some blood flowing, you have landed on your target area for about 20 seconds, now slowly start to roll that area. You may have to adjust your weight distribution to stay at the "good" pain and that's okay.

Step Seven

Gradually increase your time rolling and distance over your target area until muscles become loosened.

Common Trouble Spots with Exercises

Iliotibial (IT) exercise

For this exercise you will be positioned on your side. Lie down with your quad on the side in which you want to work on the foam roller. Your other leg should be positioned in front of that leg with your foot firmly on the floor, helping the lower half of your body stay off the ground with help from the foam roller under the other quad.

You will now support your upper body with your hands (some prefer knuckles). When you start to roll, make sure your are rolling from above the knee to your hip bone.

The foam roller should be positioned along the outer portion of your quad or upper thigh as you roll. You can take some slack (if need be) off of you upper leg at first by leaning slightly forward using your upper body for leverage.

iliotibial foam rolling exercise

Quadriceps Exercise

I prefer to roll both of my quads at the same time as this seems to massage and relax my muscles better then one at a time. This exercise calls for you to basically lie down so that the foam roller is underneath both thighs directly on the quads.

I use again, my hands or forearms to brace my upper body so that I can roll back and forth on the foam roller. Maintain this roll for roughly 1 minute or as tolerated. Like the above exercise you should be concentrating on rolling from your upper knee to just below your hip bone.

Calves Exercise

Probably my favorite exercise to foam roll is for my calves. Simply sit down on your mat and extend one of your legs forward over the foam roller. The other leg should be positioned with your knee bent and foot firmly on the mat or crossed over your other leg (pictured below).

Your hands will be positioned behind you to the side, and prop yourself up so that your gluts are off of the ground. As you are doing these exercises and rolling make sure you are focusing on your tight areas. Remember, know your body and don't just go through the motions, have purpose.

Slow down as you roll over the knots/trigger spots. Roll each leg for 1 minute. With the calves, make sure your hands are positioned to support you because you should be rolling from your ankle to just behind the knee area or slightly below.

Positioning is crucial to foam rolling correctly, so practice your form.

Calves foam rolling exercise

Hamstring Exercise (see photo below)

Foam rolling the hamstring is similar to the calves as far as positioning is concerned. You should start by siting on the mat with one leg extended over-top the foam roller, however the roller should be up behind your upper leg (or hamstring).

Again hand positioning is key here to be able to support your body to properly roll the entirety of your hamstring. You should be rolling from the bend in the knee, to the lower portion of your gluts. I spend roughly 1 minute per exercise depending on severity of my stiffness/workout.

hamstring foam rolling exercise

Upper Back (see photo below)

My second favorite spot to roll is probably my back. My back gets tight fairly easily so this is one I do more often and I think it feels the best as well. The exercise requires you to lie on our back, with the foam roller just about at the shoulder blades.

Start with your butt on the floor and then slowly lift you butt off of the floor and place your hands gently behind your neck, as you would if you were doing crunches. Your knees should be bent and your legs should be propelling you back and forth as you roll.

Now slowly start to roll. This exercise is for the upper back so you should be going from just below your neck to mid-back. 1 minute.

There you go, you can now be on your way to foam rolling! We hope you have learned how to use muscle rollers and foam rollers, or at least where to start. There are a lot of exercises your can do with the these devices and can even purchase handheld rollers which you can practically take anywhere.

Have a great day and be sure to share this post on social media and spread the word. Thanks a bunch!

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