If you have ever been in a gym, sporting goods shop or even the active aisle at Target, you’ve probably seen a foam roller. If you feel unclear about how to use one, you are not alone. While growing more mainstream, foam rollers live a mystery to numerous people and even trainers.

Foam roller workouts, also called myofascial release, is a form of massage that fitness-minded people do either before exercise to loosen up their sore muscles and their tight joints, or after a workout, to help muscle recovery.

Foam roller exercises and other self-myofascial release methods have become increasingly popular, and for a good reason. Partly that stems from a better understanding of the restorative advantages of soft tissue care, or massage. Massage can ultimately become cost-prohibitive unless you are an athlete or just have a few hundred extra bucks lying around, you probably opt infrequently for a massage as a luxury or a splurge more than a necessity.

Working yourself out on a foam roller becomes an affordable option to massage therapy. Those dense, round pieces of foam can deliver multiple advantages of therapeutic massage without the cost.

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The Best Foam Roller Exercises

Now that you have a rather solid understanding of precisely what foam rolling is and how it can benefit you directly, you are probably questioning how to include them into your daily routine.

Ideally, the following exercises should be done for about a minute on each area to allow the muscle to relax. As you roll, take some slow, deep breaths. We tend to hold our breath when we are focusing on something, especially when something feels new to us. Remain mindful of your breathing during this process.

Hamstrings and Glutes

So many of us have remarkably tight hamstrings from sitting at our desks all day, which can cause lower-back pain. It’s why you can benefit from hamstring stretches and exercises that include the foam roller.

To roll out your hamstrings and glutes, start by sitting on the floor and placing the foam roller long ways below your legs. Use your arms to brace yourself and modify how much force you are applying to your legs. The more body weight you transfer to your arms, the easier things will be on your hamstrings.

If you feel like you need to put more pressure on your hamstrings, just shift more of your body weight to your legs and less in your arms. You will want to just roll yourself along the roller from your glutes down to just above your knees. Again, spend about a minute here and make sure you’re not holding your breath.

Quadriceps (The Front Of Your Legs)

The exterior of our legs can indeed grow sore and tight. Balance becomes crucial, so if you’re going to work on those hamstrings, turn over and give equal attention to your quadriceps.

To do this, place the foam roller underneath your legs and with your body weight on your forearms, begin to roll yourself back and forth from the top of your knees to your pelvic bone. You will want to keep your abs contracted on this one and keep your feet off the floor as you’re rolling.

Iliotibial (IT) Band

Although IT band issues are usually connected with runners, everyone can be affected by IT band problems and can result in knee and lower back pain. You need to begin working on knee strengthening exercises as well as foam roller exercises for the IT band.

To roll out your IT band, you’ll want to position yourself with the side of your leg on top of the roller. You can take some of the pressure off the IT band directly by transferring your body weight to your arms as you roll from just below your hip to the top of your knee and keeping your other foot on the ground so that your opposite leg supports you.

Upper Back

We sit down a lot, which can take its toll on our upper backs. This exercise becomes an excellent way to loosen up knots associated with phones that won’t stop ringing and rush-hour traffic that won’t move when you have a car full of crying kids and a pint of ice cream melting over all your other groceries.

Place the foam roller perpendicular to your body and lean your upper back against it. Place your hands directly behind your head, lift your hips off the floor, and gently begin to roll from the top of your shoulder blades to the middle of your back.