Roll like a Pro: Foam Roller Exercises - Paula Owens

Educating and Empowering You to Heal, Thrive, and Live a Happy, Healthy Lifestyle

Paul Owens - Functional Health Expert

Sign Up for Free Health News & Wellness Videos

Roll like a Pro: Foam Roller Exercises

Foam Roller Exercises and Self-Myofascial Release - Paula Owens, MS Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health Practitioner
Foam roller exercises are an excellent DIY fascia therapy and self-myofascial release to sore, tight muscles and improved performance.

Do you experience restricted movement? Aches and pains? Sore, tight muscles? Poor posture? Text neck? Sit too much? Any of these can result in poor performance, fatigue, altered breathing patterns, degenerative disc disease, neck, knee and back pain, headaches, structural imbalances, and other health problems. Bring your body into balance by using the foam roller for just a few minutes every day.

Foam roller exercises, trigger point therapy and self-myofascial release (SMR) using a foam roller are effective strategies and a effective recovery modality that’s affordable, easy to perform, and time efficient to assist in enhancing muscle recovery and mobility.
Muscle and fascia make up the myofacial system. Myo = muscle and Fascia = a strong, fibrous connective tissue encasing all of your muscles, joints and organs. It’s usually the fascia that’s tight and tangled with trigger points that need to be released. When fascia tightens, it creates pressure on tissue, inhibits range of motion and flexibility, causing it to become a source of tension in the body. Injury, inactivity, short and tight muscles, and inflexibility cause the muscle and fascia to become stuck together. Due to repetitive movement, poor posture, neuro-muscular weakness, trauma and injury, fascia becomes constricted.

The Benefits of Foam Roller Exercises

Foam rolling is a very therapeutic technique that helps to break up muscular knots, tight fascia and connective tissue tension.

? Improved muscle recovery, alleviates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

? Self-myofascial release (SMR) using the foam roller can assist in breaking down scar tissue and encourages the release of fascia as you work your way from one end of the muscle to the other (starting at the origin and working toward the insertion).

? Foam roller exercises are highly beneficial and effective injury prevention, prehab, rehab and recovery self-care therapy that is easy, effective and inexpensive

? Promotes and supports a healthy lymphatic system

? Foam rolling helps to release trigger points and knots, and minimizes pain, tension, muscle tenderness and joint pain

? Improves posture

? Consistent use of the foam roller is an extremely effective rehab technique for ITB syndrome and sciatica. Excellent tool for sprinters, marathoners, runners or anyone that engages in any type of activity or sport.
? Performed consistently, foam roller exercises help to increase flexibility and joint range of motion

Round foam rollers come in various lengths and densities that can be used to release trigger points and break up tight and tangled fascia. I use a foam roller that is 6″ round and 36″ long.

How to Use the Foam Roller

Learning how to effectively use a foam roller pre- and post-exercise training or for DIY physical therapy can be a major game changer for your posture, workouts, performance and recovery. Exercise can induce various degrees of fatigue in the musculoskeletal, nervous, and metabolic systems. Various degrees of discomfort or pain and inflammation can be associated with a sedentary lifestyle and also with exercise, depending on the frequency, intensity, duration, and type of exercise performed.

During self-myofascial release (SMR), pressure is applied to a muscle using a foam roller causing activation of the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO), which in turn signals muscle spindles to release and relax the muscle being worked on. The GTO is extremely sensitive to changes of tension in the muscle.

  • Locate an area that has a reduced range of motion, a tight muscle or trigger point or an area that is overused
  • Stop on tender spots for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as the discomfort subsides by 50-75%. This could take some time and may be uncomfortable. The point is to relax as the area softens and releases
  • When the area is no longer sensitive, begin to roll to other tender spots on the muscle you’re focusing on and repeat.

Foam roller exercises post-training (after exercise) can be held for longer periods of time to enhance recovery from DOMS while breathing deeply. Trigger point therapy using the foam roller before exercise prepares and excites the body for the imposed demands and activity that will be placed upon it.

In addition to the foam roller exercises shown below, other areas to target are the adductor muscles (inner thigh), calves and hamstrings.

Trigger Point Therapy for Your Feet

Don’t forget the bottom of your feet – instead of the foam roller, opt for a golf ball, Lacrosse ball or an avocado pit! The intrinsic foot muscles (muscles whose origin and insertion are both located in the foot and do not cross the ankle joint) are important for stability and control. The structure of your feet will affect everything up the kinetic chain.
Trigger point therapy and pressure can be applied to your feet by a reflexologist, a DIY massage, or self-myofascial release by standing on a lacrosse ball, golf ball or a Foot Rubz ball. There are reflex areas on the bottom of the feet that correspond to different organs and systems of your body. Applying pressure to specific points on the bottom of the feet stimulates various organs, glands or bodily systems, improves circulation and energy flow, breaks up calcium crystals, knots and tight restricted fascia, releases blockages, stimulates lymph, and is highly beneficial for plantar fasciitis.

Foam Roller Exercises

Glutes and Piriformis

To target the piriformis, bring the ankle of the working leg above the knee of the supporting leg. Position your body so the side of your glute (the meaty area), above the hip bone, is on the foam roller. Adjust the pressure as you shift your weight forward and back on the roller to locate the trigger point within the external hip rotators. Helps with relieving low back pain (LBP).

External Hip RotatorsExternal Hip RotatorsExternal Hip Rotators


Foam Roller Exercises - Self-Myofascial ReleaseStart with the foam roller at the middle of your thigh. Work the top half of the quad first, starting at the mid-thigh working toward the top. Then, work all the way down the front of the thigh to your knee. Position yourself so the front of your thigh is resting on top of the foam roller. Be sure to work both the vastus medialis (inner area of front thigh) and vastus lateralis (outer area of front thigh) by adjusting the angle of your thigh on the roller.

Illiotibial Band (ITB)

Foam Roller Exercises, Self-myofascial releaseFoam Roller Exercises, Self-myofascial releasePosition yourself to the side so your outer thigh is resting on top of the roller. Place the foot of the opposite leg on the ground in front of you. Make sure you do not turn too far on to the front or back of the thigh. Start in the middle of the ITB and work toward the top of the muscle. Continue to work all the way down the outer thigh ending above your knee.

Glute Medius

Paula Owens, MS - Foam Roller Exercises, Self-Myofascial Release
Position your body so the side of your hip is on the foam roller. Make sure you don’t lean too far forward or back. Lift the foot of the working leg (bottom leg) off the ground to increase pressure.


Upper Back, Rhomboids and Trapezius

Lie with your shoulder blades on the foam roller and your feet on the ground. Your butt is off the floor andPaula Owens, MS - Foam Roller Exercises your hands cradle the weight Paula Owens, MS - Foam Roller Exercises, Self-myofascial Releaseof your head, supporting your neck. Draw the elbows toward one another to focus more on the rhomboids.

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
Paula Owens, MS - Foam Roller Exercises, Self-Myofascial Release

Lie on your side and place your armpit on the foam roller. The arm is straight, thumb up. Rotate the arm externally until you feel a stretch in the lat and then return it to the starting position. This particular foam roller exercise flushes toxins toward the concentration of lymph nodes in the arm pit. 



Thoracic Extension

Paula Owens, MS - Foam Roller Exercises, Self-myofascial release
End all of your foam roller sessions with thoracic extension. Hands are behind your head to support your neck. Butt is on the ground.




Spinal Mobilization

Paula Owens, MS - Spinal Mobioization, Foam Roller Exercises, Self-Myofascial Release
Lie vertically on the foam roller with your head and your entire spine down to the sacrum supported on the foam roller. This helps restore the natural curves of your spine and elongates the anterior longitudinal ligament of the spine.

Stay here, chill, relax and breathe deeply for 2-5 minutes.


Related Articles