How to Effectively Foam Roll Your Upper & Lower Body

foam rolling

The use of foam rollers, sticks, therapy balls, theracanes, and other trigger point tools are on the rise—why? Because chances are you’re reading this, right now, in some pain due to chronic movement patterns from flawed body mechanics. Myofascial work like foam rolling helps alleviate muscle pain and increase blood flow. It should actually be a proactive practice, pain or not, in order for you to continue to move better for life. By manipulating your body’s soft tissue, you aid muscle recovery and assist in returning it to normal function. Normal function means you are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform, in and outside the gym!

Trigger points or “knots,” for lack of a better term, form in muscles and can be identified because they will refer pain. Pain referral can most easily be described as when pressure is applied in one area but the pain is felt or radiated in another area. So if your left shoulder hurts, the problem is likely somewhere else in your body, and rolling can help you target the correct area that needs attention. When rolling or working on tight muscles, you will experience discomfort. Be prepared. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better!

Foam Rolling Directions

Spend at least one minute on each tight area. Use as much or as little pressure as feels comfortable for you. If you find a knot, linger on it for a little while, rolling back and forth until the tenderness eases. It’s best if you can spend at least 15 minutes a day doing myofascial work, regardless if you were active that day. Just like all other areas of your health (nutrition, sleep, activity, etc.), rolling takes consistent practice.

Ready to give it a try?!


Upper Body Foam Rolling Routine

Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other side, when applicable. 

Foam Roll Upper BackUpper Back

1 – Lie on a roller across your upper back, with hands on the floor by your sides, your feet flat and knees bent.

2 – Push away, rolling down from your upper back to your mid-back, straightening your legs.

3 – Then pull back, rolling up from your mid to upper back.

 

Foam Roll Lower BackLower Back

1 – Lie on a roller in your mid-back, with hands on the floor behind, your feet flat and knees bent.

2 – Push away, rolling down from your mid-back to your buttocks, straightening your legs.

3 – Then pull back, rolling up from your buttocks to your mid-back.

 

Foam Roll ChestChest

1 – Lie face-down with a roller under your upper chest and your arms stretched overhead.

2 – Pull your body toward your forearms, rolling down from your upper chest to your mid-abdomen, supporting your weight on your toes and forearms.

3 – Push away, rolling back from your mid-abdomen to your upper chest.

 

Foam Roll LatsLats

1 – Sit, leaning to one side, with a roller under the side of your rib cage, resting on your forearm with your elbow bent.

2 – Roll upward toward your armpit, straightening your arm.

3 – Roll back down from your armpit to your rib cage, bending your elbow.

 

Foam Roll TricepsTriceps

1 – Lie on your side with a roller in your armpit, with your arm straight out and your other hand on the mat in front.

2 – Raise your upper body, rolling down the back of your upper arm from your armpit to your elbow.

3 – Lower your body back down, rolling back up your arm to your armpit.

 

Foam Roll Back Back

1 – Lie on your back with a roller lengthwise along your spine, feet flat, knees bent and arms by your sides.

2 – Roll from side to side across your back, keeping your feet flat.

 

Download Upper Body Foam Roll Routine

 


Lower Body Foam Rolling Routine

Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other side, when applicable. 

Foam Roll ShinShins (Anterior Tibialis)

1 – Kneel on all fours with the roller under one ankle.

2 – Raise the knee of the leg on the roller and push back, rolling up from your ankle to your knee, straightening your leg.

3 – Roll back down the shin, keeping the knee raised throughout.

 

Foam Roll AdductorsAdductors

1 – Lie face-down with one leg bent at the knee 90 degrees and the roller under your inner thigh.

2 – Roll back and forth along your inner thigh from your inside hip to knee, and back.

 

 

Foam Roll CalvesCalves

1 – Sit with the roller under your ankles, with your legs straight and your hands on the mat behind your buttocks.

2 – Raise your hips off the floor and one ankle off the roller, supporting your bodyweight with your hands.

3 – Roll up and down your calf from ankle to knee, pushing your body away with your hands.

Foam Roll GlutesGlutes

1 – Sit upright on the roller with legs straight out in front and your hands on the mat behind your back.

2 – Roll back and forth over your buttocks from the top of your hamstrings to your lower back.

3 – Bend and straighten your legs as you roll back and forth.

 

Foam Roll Side GlutesSide Glutes (Piriformis)

1 – Sit upright on a roller, leaning to one side with this leg bent and the ankle on your other knee.

2 – Support your bodyweight on one hand on the mat behind, with your arm straight.

3 – Push your body away, bending your elbow and rolling over the side of your buttocks.

4 – Pull back, straightening your arm and rolling back over the buttocks.

Foam Roll HamstringsHamstrings

1 – Sit with a roller under the top of your hamstrings with your legs straight, your feet off the floor, and your hands behind your buttocks about 2 feet.

2 – Pull your body towards your hands, rolling down along the hamstrings to the back of your knees.

3 – Push your body back away from your hands, rolling up from knees to your buttocks.

Foam Roll IT BandIT Band

1 – Lie on your side with the roller under your hip, resting on your forearm and hand, with your feet off the floor.

2 – Pull your body toward your forearm, rolling down along the side of your thigh from your hip to the top of your knee.

3 – Push away, rolling back up the side of your thigh from your knee to your hip.

Foam Roll Side ShinSide Shin (Peroneus)

1 – Lie on your side with a roller under the side of your bottom shin, hips on the mat and resting on your forearm.

2 – Pull your body toward your forearm, raising your hips, and roll down the side of your shin from your knee to your ankle.

3 – Push away, rolling back up the side of your shin to your knee.

Foam Roll QuadricepsQuadriceps

1 – Lie face-down with a roller under your lower thighs, just above your knee, supporting your weight on your hands and toes with your arms straight.

2 – Push away, lowering your body down, raising your feet and roll up along the front of your thighs from your knee to mid-thigh.

3 – Pull back, returning to a straight arm position, rolling down to the top of your knee again.

Foam Roll Hip FlexorsHip Flexors

1 – Lie face-down with a roller at hip level, legs straight with one foot off the floor, resting on your forearms.

2 – Leaning to the side of the raised leg, roll up and down this leg from the top of your hip to your mid-quad.

 

Download Lower Body Foam Roll Routine

 

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Rachel Prairie is ride-or-die trainer chick. From Director of Training to entrepreneur, Rachel now leads a double-life training Anytime Fitness trainers and as Corporate Trainer at Self Esteem Brands in Woodbury, MN. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she expects the same from her clients: “We hustle harder!” Rachel is a NASM certified personal trainer with a BA in Rhetoric, as well as ACE Kettlebell Level I and Functional Movement Systems (FMS) certified. She is well-versed in empathy, high-fives, eating, lifting weights, hugs, and exploring the great outdoors.