How to Use a Foam Roller | Best Exercises | IMPACT

How to Use a Foam Roller: Exercises & More

If you’re an active person or have been involved in some sort of sport during your lifetime, you probably have encountered a foam roller. Whether it’s your coach who has suggested one or your primary care doctors, foam rollers are a great tool to help aid you in muscle recovery for issues like strains or knots.

Even if you aren’t injured, a foam roller can improve your flexibility and overall fitness! This article explores some of the best foam roller exercises you can use to reap these benefits.

How to Use a Foam Roller

If you’re not used to using a foam roller, it can be a bit uncomfortable at first. While you can expect some discomfort, the pain shouldn’t be intense. Rather, it should be a “good” type of pain, similar to having a massage on a part of your body that’s tense. We recommend taking it slow at first when rolling out. Rolling out too hard may only increase the risk of injury, and can result in bruising.

So, where do you start with a foam roller? Here are the basic steps on how to use a foam roller:

  1. Begin by placing the foam roller on the floor and sit or lie down beside it.
  2. Locate the target area where you’re experiencing discomfort or the muscle group you plan to roll out (ex. Quads, hamstrings, calves).
  3. Gently place the foam roller under the chosen muscle group, relying on your body weight for pressure.
  4. Take about one to two minutes for each muscle group you’re targeting, making sure to go slow and take your time rolling over the tender areas.

Best Foam Rolling Exercises

Wondering how to use a foam roller for your back or another muscle group? Below, we review some of the best foam roller exercises for different muscle groups.

Quad Foam Roller 

Begin by lying face down with the roller positioned under your thighs, using your arms or elbows for support (sort of like a plank). Roll from your hips to just above your knees, pausing on any knots or tension points. 

Upper Back

Start by sitting with the foam roller behind your upper back, ensuring that the roller is perpendicular to your back. With your arms supporting your head, bend your knees and lift your butt from the ground, rolling forward and backward over the tight areas.  When you come to a particularly tender spot, you can also just hold the pressure there for 20-30 seconds to allow the muscles to release.


Sit on the floor with your legs extended and place the roller under your thighs, just under the area where your hamstrings meet your butt. Roll from just below your glutes to just above your knees.


Similar positioning to how you’d roll out your hamstrings, place the foam roller beneath your glutes. Position either your left or right foot (whichever glute you plan to focus on) on top of your knee, creating a “4-like” shape, using your legs to push you forward and back.

IT Band 

Lie on your side with the roller under your hip. Roll from your hip to just above your knee, again, pausing when you find areas of tightness.

Additional Uses for Using a Foam Roller

Even if you aren’t experiencing pain or injury, there are a lot of other ways that using a foam roller can benefit you and your physical health and athletic performance. Foam rolling can be used to promote flexibility, improve your posture, or just as a way to relieve yourself of tension after a tough workout. 

Get Back to Speed at IMPACT Physical Therapy and Sports Recovery

Foam rolling is just one of the many ways you can take action to get you and your physical health back on track. But in some situations, foam rolling just isn’t enough. Whether you’re experiencing chronic pain or are trying to bounce back from a recent sports injury, IMPACT Physical Therapy and Sports Recovery can help. Call us at 833-299-4672 to learn about the services we provide at our several locations throughout Illinois.