My favourite foam roller exercises

More and more I find myself picking up the foam roller to mobilise different areas of my body. There are many types of rollers and techniques for mobilisation but these are the ones I prefer. I think one common mistake is putting too much body weight through the roller or buying one that is too firm. It is going to be uncomfortable but the aim is not to create immense pain. Your body is a living structure that responds well to movement and mobilisation and the compression from the roller assists to access deeper layers in your muscles and fascia but you never want to compress so much that the movement is all together blocked. Listen to your body and remember that you probably grabbed the roller to try help a particular body part, so look after it.  Ok, let's look more closely at the movements I love the most. 

Child's pose

If sitting in Child's pose doesn't create a stretch or lengthen your spine then maybe it is time to add in the foam roller. Placing your hands on the roller and rolling it forwards creates a traction force through the shoulders and helps to increase the stretching sensation along the spine. If you turn the roller to 45 degrees on one side, this will further help isolate and target the opposite side of your body. Always use the breath to increase the stretch and you'll feel it where you need it, shoulders, neck, upper or lower back. 


Lie face down on the roller and use your upper body to lift your belly and chest off the floor. The arms create the rolling movement and add in an extra benefit of strengthening your abs. Make sure when you roll your quads that you roll the entire length of the quads and do it with knees straight to start and then knees bent to 90 degrees and feet touching. Just lovely!


There will be a big difference in the sensation of your calves with your feet stiff and feet relaxed so be sure to try both versions and see what feels best for you. Again work then entire length of the calf but often I do it in two halves (top & bottom) as flicking of the centre of the calf can be a bit tender. The arms are strong and driving the movement while giving your triceps a little workout too. 

Thoracic spine

There are two ways to do this movement and it is important not to mash them. The first is with your hips lifted you can roll up and down the roller taking note of any areas that feel particularly stiff and painful. Once you've decided where you are going to stretch put your butt down. Hold onto your head and extend backwards over the roam roller. Do a little crunch to roll back up and repeat over one particular spot. Then move up and down your back. If your hips stay lifted you don't move into extension which misses the purpose of the pose. 


This is a great way to mobilise the gluteal muscles while they are already under stretch. Begin by sitting on the roller and lift one leg up to rest your foot on top of the other knee. This creates a stretch through the top leg. Using your arms to support your body weight rock towards that side and get your bottom on the roller. Then move it up and down. If this doesn't feel isolated enough perhaps try something more targeted like a spiky ball?

ITB & Lateral Thigh

This one is always tough to roll because it can be very uncomfortable. You'll notice in the picture that my elbow and top leg are lifting my weight off the roller so I can control my position. I break this one into 3 parts - top of the thigh, mid and lower near the knee. Roll up and down but also be sure to rock your body forward and backwards to bring the mobilisation more into the qauds and hamstrings and learn about the different muscles inserting and living beneath the ITB. 

With all of these exercises, if you can't breath or you're grimacing during the movement maybe consider that you are pushing too hard. Be fluid and creative with the movements to explore how your muscles are feeling. Flush it out and mobilise throughout the body part for the best results. 

Good luck, SS