7 Foam Roller Exercises Your Body Will Thank You for Doing

Foam roller exercises improve flexibility, provide mini massages, and can be an integral part of your fitness routine. These foam roller exercises will help make you stronger and healthier.

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Mid-back extension

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Improve your overall upright posture with foam roller back exercises. For this mid-back extension, lay on your back with the foam roller horizontally beneath your shoulder blades. Place both hands behind your head. Slowly arch your mid back over the foam roller. As you extend back, gently draw in the lower abdominals to avoid over-arching from the low back. Discomfort is common during foam rolling, but pain should not occur. "If you experience pain, bruising, or prolonged inflammation, you have likely worked the region too aggressively," says Jim Heafner, PT, DPT of Heafner Health Physical Therapy. Try these simple tricks to improve your posture.

Calf rolling

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

To improve ankle mobility, Heafner recommends foam roller exercises, specifically calf rolling. Lay on your back with a foam roller propped underneath both calves. Slowly roll the foam roller up and down the length of the calves, pausing momentarily at tension points. You can also roll along the inside or the outside of the calves for additional stretching. Looking for ways to work out your legs? Try these leg toning movements.

IT band rolling

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Foam roller stretches can help with muscle pain, and this exercise eases knee pain, says Heafner. Lay on your side with the foam roller underneath the outside of your thigh. Roll along your IT band (a band of tendon and tissue that starts at the hip and moves toward the knee.) Focus on rolling back and forth on the muscle, instead of rolling the length from hip to knee. This action specifically targets the region between the muscle and the tissue. Want to go even deeper? Try a roller with "bumps" like the RumbleRoller.

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Core stability

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

Foam roller exercises can also work the core, challenging balance, says Karena Wu, DPT, of New York City. Lie on your back with the foam roller vertically underneath you, supporting the length of your spine. Hands are resting at your side with your palms down, forearms supported on the floor. Feet are hip or shoulder width apart, flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to hip height, keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees, and the low back spine in a neutral position. Slowly lower back down, and alternate with the other leg. To make the foam roller exercise more challenging, hold the arms straight up overhead at shoulder height so that the core has to work even harder to maintain balance.

Bridge

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

For low back and hamstring strengthening, Wu recommends a bridge pose as a foam roller back exercise. Lie on the floor with your knees bent to 90 degrees and feet on the foam roller, with the roller perpendicular to the length of your body. Without moving your knees, push down through your feet on the foam roller to lift your hips and buttocks up. "Try not to let the foam roller move in or out as you lift your hips up and down," Wu says.

Abdominal strengthening

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

This foam roller exercise will fire up your core. Lying on your stomach, prop yourself up on your elbows, with your shins on the foam roller. Pull your navel into the spine and then lift up your low back by pushing down through the elbows and the shins on the foam roller (like a plank position, says Dr. Wu). Pike up into a "V" position by pulling your feet up toward your head, and then slowly push them back out into the plank position. For more ways to work your core (without doing a single crunch!)  try these ab exercise to flatten your belly.

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Push-ups

Courtesy Antea Gatalica and Shane Monaghan

To further test your balance and tone your arms, give push-ups on the foam roller a try. Place your hands on the foam roller, shoulder-width apart. Be sure to keep your wrists beneath your shoulders so everything is in line. Come into a high plank or onto your knees, and, keeping your core engaged, slowly bend your elbows and lower to the floor, then push back up.


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