6 Foam Rolling Moves That’ll Soothe All Those Sore Muscles
Anyone who has had an intense day in the gym knows about that lingering muscle soreness and tightness that just won’t seem to quit. And from a physiological perspective, ignoring those aches and pains rather than tending to them can lead to an increased risk of injury the next time you lace up for a workout.
So with that in mind, it’s time to grab a foam roller. You know, that semi-rigid cylindrical piece of foam sitting in the corner of the gym near the free weights that you’ve always wondered how to use. We won’t lie to you — leveraging your body weight to massage those sore muscles hurts like hell in the moment, but you’ll fare so much better after putting yourself through this brief torture.
Foam rolling, a type of self-myofascial release (the stimulation of the stretch reflex in muscles and the relaxation of contracted ones), applies pressure to certain muscular sections of the body to relieve soreness and tightness. (You never want to just roll along bone like your knees or the vertebrae of your spine since they aren’t malleable.) When you integrate this form of stretching into your warm-up and/or cool-down routine, you benefit from an increased range of motion, improved flexibility, better blow flow and more.
Below are six basic foam rolling moves to get you started that address the majority of your body, starting from the feet and working up to the upper back. To see the best results, roll each muscular section for at least 30 seconds at a time, honing in on the spaces that feel particularly knotted or painful. Just keep breathing through those rough patches and focus on the fact that you’re doing your body a big favor.
1. Calf Roll
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Place your hands behind you with your fingers reaching toward your body to support your weight. Place the foam roller under your calves and lift your hips up off the floor. Slowly roll along the length of the calf muscle (from your ankles to the backs of your knees), carefully massaging the points that feel tightest.
2. Hamstrings Roll
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Place your hands behind you with your fingers reaching toward your body to support your weight. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor as you place the foam roller beneath your left hamstring and lift your hips up off the floor. Slowly roll along the length of the hamstring (from your knee right up to the edge of your butt cheek), carefully massaging the points that feel tightest. Switch sides and repeat.
3. IT Band Roll
Turn onto your left side and place the foam roller directly beneath your left hip. Bend your right knee and place your right foot in front of your extended left leg for balance and leverage. Place your hands down on the floor to support your body weight. Slowly roll the length of your outer thigh (from your knee up to the edge of your hip), carefully massaging the parts of the IT band that feel tightest. Switch sides and repeat.
4. Quadriceps Roll
Flip over onto your stomach and place the foam roller beneath your thighs as you lift your upper body with your hands or forearms. Keep both feet hovering off the ground as you slowly roll along the length of the quadriceps (from the knees to the tops of the thighs), carefully massaging the points that feel tightest. If you want to roll out each leg individually, align your body over the foam roller so that only one leg is resting on it at a time, and then switch sides.
5. Lower Back Roll
From a seated position, place the foam roller under your lower back, lifting your hips off of the floor. You can cross your arms over your chest to really fall into the massage or leave your hands on the ground for additional support. Gently roll along the section of your back between the bottom curve of your lower back and the lower edge of your back ribs. That way, you focus on the muscular cords that stretch along the sides of the spine rather than rolling on the vertebrae themselves. You can even lean slightly to the left or right to address knots or sore spots.
6. Upper Back Roll
Lie on your back and place the foam roller beneath your upper back. You can cross your arms over your chest to expose the muscular area underneath your shoulder blades or just keep your arms in front of you and focus on the same muscles. Lift your hips off of the ground, pressing your weight into the foam roller. Carefully roll slightly to the left to get away from the spine and closer to muscular tissue, and gently roll along the length of your upper back, focusing on the points that feel tightest. Roll back to the center, roll slightly over to the right and repeat.