Exercise

If you want to loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, fasten sore muscle recovery and much more, this article will show you the best foam roller stretches.

If you’re that person who hears about foam rolling but has never given it a shot, you’re totally missing out. As you’ll see below, foam roller stretches have benefits you won’t get from static or dynamic stretching.

In recent years foam rolling has become a popular way of self-myofascial release – a fancy term for self-massage. Finally, you don’t have to pay for sports massage anymore – a foam roller is all you need.

Before we look into different foam roller stretches, here are the benefits of foam rolling.

 

Benefits of foam rolling

You’ll relieve muscle tension – Our muscles tighten due to poor posture, inactivity, hard training, stress and so on. Using a foam roller regularly will eliminate muscle tension and muscle knots.

Improved blood flow – Applying self-massage on a muscle increases blood flow in that muscle.

You’ll become more flexible ­– A study published on the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation found that the subjects had a wider hip range of motion after foam rolling on the hamstrings. Researchers believed that better blood flow helped increase flexibility.

Foam rolling can unlock your ability to perform exercises like deep squats.

More strength – A wide range of motion will help activate the muscles more, therefore leading to faster muscle and strength gain.

Faster muscle recovery Research shows that foam rolling stretches reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). As a result, you’ll recover faster and be able perform more workouts per week.

You’ll get rid of cellulite – Even though there isn’t enough research to back this up, several people claim that foam rolling has helped them get rid of cellulite.

To get all the benefits above, you have to do foam rolling properly and consistently. Here are a few foam rolling tips.

 

Foam rolling tips you should know

Most folks start foam rolling without any guidance or advice from a professional. It’s important to get clearance from a therapist before you start doing any foam rolling stretches.

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to foam-roll your lower back. According to Hitzmann, doing this will tense the spine and the spinal muscles will tighten to protect the spine.

That said, there are muscles which need foam rolling more than others. And that’s the quadriceps, glutes and the Iliotibial (IT) band (side of the leg, from the hips to the knee). These muscles usually tighten due to daily habits like sitting, wearing heels, not stretching and so on.

The truth is most people do foam roll stretches longer than they are supposed to. You don’t have to focus on an area for 5 minutes, aim for 1-2 minutes per muscle and then move on to another muscle. Focusing too much on one area can damage the tissues around that area. Additionally, avoid applying a foam roller on the joints and bones.

Note that foam rolling is not comfortable, you’ll experience some pain when massaging tight or sore muscles. But don’t let that stop you. As long as the pain is not sharp and unbearable, keep going. You’ll feel better afterwards.

The good thing about foam rolling is it can be done at any time. You can do it before a workout or after a workout, before static stretching. It can also be done on days you don’t exercise – it’ll help relieve stress and undo the effects of sitting all day.

15 Best Foam Roller Stretches

foam roller stretches

 

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch

The lats are one of the biggest muscles, unfortunately, they’re usually ignored. Stretching the lats can relieve shoulder pain, back pain and other upper body issues.

How to perform

Lie on the left side and place the left arm on the floor then extend it straight over the head.

Keep the left leg straight on the floor and bend the right knee and rest it in front of the left leg.

Place the foam roller under the left armpit, such that it’s perpendicular to the body.

Place the right palm on the floor for support and then roll up and down over the foam roller. Move it from your armpits down to the oblique muscles.

Once you complete stretching one side, turn and repeat the same movement on the right side.

 

Upper Back Stretch

Stretching the upper back is beneficial for folks with weak back muscles or a big chest. And for folks who sit for long hours.

How to perform

Lie on your back and place the foam roller on the upper back. Bend the knees and keep the feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind the head or on the chest and lift the butt off the floor.

Tighten the core then use the force of your legs to roll backwards until the foam roller gets to the middle back. Then roll up to the upper back and repeat.

Keep the neck in its neutral position throughout the movement. Lifting the head up could hurt the spine.

 

Quadriceps Stretch

Self-massaging the quadriceps after a leg workout will definitely make you feel better and enhance recovery.

How to perform

Lie on your stomach and place the foam roller on your thighs (your toes should be off the floor). Bend your elbows and rest the forearms on the floor.

Tighten the glutes and abs muscles. Then with the support of your arms, slide forward until the foam roller is just above the knees, and then roll backwards to bring the roller to the upper thighs.

For a deeper massage foam-roll one leg at a time.

Iliotobial (IT) Band Stretch

The IT band muscles are usually ignored. Stretching them will improve your flexibility and performance.

How to perform

Lie on the right side, bend the left knee and bring it in front of the right leg.

Place the foam roller under the right thigh. And then place both hands on the floor for support.

Use the support of the arms and the left leg to roll the foam roller from below the hips to above the knee. Once you’re done, turn to the other side and repeat the movement.

Hip Flexors Stretch

Sitting for long hours makes the hip flexors tight. Tight hip flexors can prevent you from performing some exercises and limit your athletic performance. Foam rolling can reduce hip flexor tightness in a way that static stretching can’t.

How to perform

Lie face down and place the right upper thigh on the edge of the foam roller. Bend your arms and support the body with your forearms.

Slowly slide the foam roller from the upper thighs to just below the stomach.

Glutes Stretch

You probably have tight glute muscles if you sit for long hours. A foam roller will loosen them.

How to perform

Place a foam roller on the floor and sit on it. Place your hands on the floor, behind the butt. Keep the right foot straight and bend the left knee.

Tilt your butt and put your weight on the right butt cheek.

Now move your butt up and down the roller. Perform the movement slowly to massage the butt muscles fully.

Then tilt to the left butt cheek and repeat.

Hamstrings stretch

Chances are you have tight hamstrings – most people do. Using a foam roller will undo the many negative effects of tight hamstrings like bad posture and lower back pain.

How to perform

Place the foam roller under the hamstrings, keep the feet straight and place the hands on the floor, behind the butt.

Use the force of your arms to move the foam roller from the glutes to just above the knees. Then slide forward and repeat the movement.

Calves Stretch

When was the last time you stretched your calf muscles, I bet never. Use a foam roller to loosen the calves.

How to perform

Sit on floor and place the foam roller under the calves. Place your hands on the floor behind the butt, and keep the feet straight.

Lift your butt off the floor and then slowly roll on the foam roller from the above the ankles to just below the knees.

For more intensity, massage one leg at a time.

Shin Stretch

You need to do this stretch, especially if you experience shin pain or shin splints.

How to perform

Kneel and place the foam roller under your shins. Now, get in all-fours position. Keep the back straight and palms positioned directly below the head.

Use the arms to bring the body forward as the roller rolls from below the knees to just above the ankles.

Perform the exercise slowly to avoid rolling all the way to the knees.

Hip Adductors Stretch

Stretching and strengthening the hip adductors will help stabilize knees.

How to perform

Lie face down and bend the elbows to support the upper body with the forearms.

Bend the right knee sideways and place the roller under the inner thigh.

Slide the roller up and down the inner thigh. Once you’re done switch legs and do the same thing.

Choosing a Foam Roller

There are so many types of foam rollers out there, so how do you know which one is best for you? Some foam rollers are not fit for beginners, so it’s important you choose the tight one.

Beginners should start with soft foam rollers since they’re easier to use. Once you gain experience you can start using firmer and harder rollers.

 

Final Word

There you have it, now go ahead and start doing these stretches – if you don’t have a foam roller buy one.

Just like any other exercise, start slow – aim for one session per week. As time goes by you can add more sessions.

Is anything you would like to add about foam rolling? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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