Foam rolling and self-massage have grown in popularity over the last few years. In addition to the physical benefits of breaking up scar tissue or fascial adhesions (knots under the skin), mental benefits exist, too, because it can help you relax and de-stress. When combined with stretching, full range strength training, and focused breathing, foam rolling can significantly improve overall mobility and range of motion.
Using long, sweeping passes over the biggest part of the target muscle is one of best ways to release tension from the muscle. Pressure from the foam roller should not surpass a five or six out of 10 when attempting to relax a muscle. Most of the muscles in the body can benefit from foam rolling regularly, including the quads, tensor fasciae latae (TFL, the muscles near the IT band), hamstrings, calves, glutes, upper back, and chest.
Spend 30-60 seconds on one or more of the muscle groups listed below, then stretch those muscles out to increase your range of motion.
Quads: Place the foam roller under the front side of the legs and support the torso by placing your hands directly underneath your shoulders and arms straight. Slowly roll from the tops of the knees to the crease of the hips, driving the movement with the arms.
TFL: You cannot foam roll the IT band to relieve tightness on the side of the thigh because the tissue doesn’t stretch or contract; it is controlled by a small but very strong muscle on the lateral side of the hip. To access this muscle, place the foam roller under the front side of the legs and rotate your left hip up about 45 degrees so your left leg is no longer on the foam roller and is on the side of your right quad (but you should not be completely lying on your right leg. Use your arms to roll yourself up and down. Feel free to adjust your angles as you move. Then repeat on the other leg.
Calves: Place the roller underneath both calves. Lift hips off the floor using your hands, keeping your shoulders in a comfortable position. Using your arms, drive the legs forward and back to target the calf muscles.
Hamstrings: Place the foam roller underneath the back of the thighs. Lift hips off the floor using your hands, keeping your shoulders in a comfortable position. Using the arms, drive the legs forward and back from the crease of the knee to the bottom of the glute to target the hamstrings.
Glutes: Sit on the roller with your hands behind your hips for supports. Cross your right leg over the left leg and shift your weight onto your left glute. Slowly roll up and down on the glute muscles. Add a slight rotation to position if needed to target the lateral aspect of the glutes.
Upper Back: Lying on the foam roller, position it under your mid-back. Place your hands behind your head to lightly support the neck and lift your hips off the ground. Roll up to the base of the neck then back to the mid-back, driving the movement from your legs.
Chest/Pecs: In a kneeling position, put one end of the foam roller on the ground and you’re your pec muscle against the other end so you’re at an angle. While keeping pressure on the muscle, move the arm slowly up and down like you’re making a snow angel.