Foam Rolling Exercises

Foam rolling (FR) is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) that helps to improve tissue alignment and quality. SMR is essentially a form of self-massage that utilizes certain tools (i.e foam rollers, tennis balls, etc.) designed to reduce the stresses to the hands that can be caused by performing self-massage.

Studies have shown numerous benefits resulting from FR, such as increased muscle activation and flexibility, and decreased injury risk and muscle soreness.

General Instructions

Perform during the warm-up and/or cool-down when exercising

Slowly move the roller along the muscle while applying moderate pressure

  • Move about 1 inch per second
  • Spend 1-2 minutes per body part
  • Change the angle with each pass in order to target the entire muscle
  • Spend extra time pausing on tender areas or rocking back/forth or side-to-side slightly

When rolling on the arms or legs:

  1. Begin near the wrists/ankles
  2. Move FR toward the center of the body
  3. Remove pressure & return back to starting position
 

Safety

Avoid rolling directly over the joints (i.e knee, elbow, spine)

Tell your physical therapist if you have any of the following conditions apply to you, as foam rolling may not be appropriate:

  • Recent Fracture or injury
  • Osteoporosis/Osteopenia
  • Anticoagulant (Blood Thinner) Medication Use
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
  • Infection
  • Sensory loss

Examples of Areas Commonly Targeted by FR

  1. Quadriceps
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Glutes/Hip Rotators
  4. Calves
  5. Lateral Thigh (IT band)
  6. Lats
  7. Mid/Upper Back
  8. Pecs

Exercise Descriptions

1. Quadriceps

Begin by lying face down, with the FR placed just above the knees

  • If more pressure is desired, you may shift the FR laterally and roll on one leg only

Roll the FR upward to just below the hip crease

 

2. Hamstrings

Begin in long-sitting, with the FR placed just above the back of the knees

  • If more pressure is desired, you may cross one ankle over the other and roll on one leg only

Roll the FR upward to the buttocks

 

3. Glutes/Hip Rotators

Begin in sitting, with the FR placed under the buttocks

  • If more pressure is desired, you may shift the FR laterally and roll on one leg only
  • To intensity the exercise, you may stretch the hip by crossing the ankle (of the side you are applying pressure) over the opposite thigh, just above the knee
  • Roll back and forth or side-to-side a few inches to target the entire area

     

    4. Calves

    Begin in long-sitting, with the FR placed just above the heel

    • If more pressure is desired, you may cross one ankle over the other and roll on one leg only

    Roll the FR upward to just below the back of the knee

     

    5. Lateral Thigh (IT Band)

    Begin by lying on your side, with the FR placed just above the outside of the knee that is closest to the floor

    Roll the FR upward to the lateral hip

    • Make sure to avoid placing pressure directly over the bony area near the top of the thigh!
     

    6. Lats

    Begin by lying on your side, with your arm raised forward to 90º or higher and the FR placed just below your armpit

    Roll back and forth or side-to-side a few inches in order to target the entire area

     

    7. Mid/Upper Back

    Begin by lying on your back, with the FR placed under your lower ribs

    • Make sure to roll on either side of the spine, not directly on the spine!
    • Hug your elbows with your arms and push your elbows away from your chest (This will move your shoulder blades out of the way)

    Roll the FR upward to the top of the shoulder/base of the neck

    Rolling may also be performed in a top-to-bottom direction

     

    8. Pecs

    Lie face down, with your arm raised to the side 90º or higher and the FR placed just below your armpit

    Roll back and forth or side-to-side a few inches in order to target the entire muscle

     

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