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Adidas/June 2023/
7 minute read

How to Use a Foam Roller: 10 Moves for Maximum Recovery

Maximize your mobility with our trainer-led ways to use a foam roller. Discover the benefits and start your recovery right with adidas.

Speak with any physical trainer out there and they’ll tell you exercising is important, but proper recovery is just as essential. How you recover defines your next training session and overall progress and health. There are lots of ways to recover, but a popular one is foam rolling—so how does it work? 

Does Foam Rolling Actually Work?

There is no doubt that foam rolling does have some short-term benefits, and above all, feels good after it’s over. 
During a workout, your muscles tighten up, and foam rolling helps release that tension in your fascia, the layer between your skin and muscle. It can be uncomfortable, but the benefits are worth it. Studies show that foam rolling can relieve muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation, and help increase your joint range of motion. It can also reduce your risk of injury, improve your posture and increase flexibility. Combined with dynamic and static stretches, this recovery routine will feel great for your sore muscles.

How Do You Use A Foam Roller Properly?

Learning how to use a foam roller for beginners is as simple as rolling your body over the foam to massage your muscles either before or after a workout. Roll out each body part for around a minute, and keep your core engaged to support your body as you move. Choose a foam roller that feels comfortable—it doesn’t need to be an extremely firm tool to reap the benefits. Follow along as personal trainer Angeline Calderone walks us through ten ways to foam roll your whole body.

How To Foam Roll Your Upper Body

See how to use a foam roller for your back and your upper body with these four muscle groups.


How to foam roll your back: 
  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and the foam roller behind you. 
  2. Lower your back onto the foam roller and adjust until your mid-back is laying on it, with your shoulders aligned with the ends of the roller with your arms crossed. 
  3. Lift your glutes and keep your core engaged as you roll back and forth to feel a massage in your upper back, rolling down no further than where your rib cage ends. Roll from right to left on any areas that need more pressure. 


How to foam roll your shoulders: 
  1. Lay on your side with the foam roller beneath your shoulder. 
  2. Keeping your arm straight, gently shift your weight to massage your shoulder on the foam roller. 
  3. Switch sides and complete with your other shoulder.


How to foam roll your lats: 
  1. Lay on your side with your arm extended over the foam roller. You can bend your upper leg for support. 
  2. Using your hands and legs, roll over the foam roller to feel a massage in your lat muscle. This movement doesn’t have to be big—you’re just trying to loosen the muscle fibers.


How to foam roll your neck:  
  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent, with the foam roller under your neck. 
  2. Gently move your head from left to right to massage the soft tissue on each side, relieving any tension you may have.

How To Use A Foam Roller For Legs

Follow along to learn how to foam roll your legs with each muscle group. Legs can be painful to roll out, especially if they’re sore. Calderone suggests that you “slowly and gently ease your way onto the foam roller. If it’s uncomfortable, shift your weight so that you’re applying less pressure, and then breathe through it.”


How to foam roll your quads: 
  1. In a forearm plank position, situate the foam roller horizontally under your quads. 
  2. With your core engaged and back flat, put your weight onto the foam roller, and push with your arms in a back and forth motion to feel a massage in your quads.  
  3. You can slightly shift your weight to the right or left to feel the massage in your inner thighs and IT band.

IT Band

How to foam roll your IT band: 
  1. In a side plank position, place the foam roller under your IT band (the outside of your leg), and cross your upper leg in front of you for support. 
  2. Use your hand and supporting leg to roll from your hip to your knee, lingering on any points that need more pressure. 
  3. If this is too painful, put more weight into your supporting leg and hand to take some pressure off your IT band as it rolls out.

Hip Flexors

How to foam roll your hip flexors: 
  1. In the same position as the quad movement, place the foam roller under the front of your hip where your hip flexor is. 
  2. Bend your opposite leg and use it to slightly push your body over the foam roller to feel a massage in your hip flexor. This is a very small range of motion. 
  3. Switch sides and repeat.


How to foam roll your hamstrings: 
  1. Sit with one knee bent and the other leg straight out in front of you with the foam roller under your hamstring. 
  2. Support yourself with your arms and push back and forth to feel a massage along the length of your hamstring. For additional pressure, cross your supporting leg over to add more weight to your hamstring as you roll. 
  3. Switch legs and repeat.


How to foam roll your glutes: 
  1. Sit with your glutes on the foam roller, knees bent. 
  2. Cross your left leg over your right, and shift your weight onto your right glute. 
  3. With your right arm extended behind you, roll back and forth and side to side to feel the massage in your right glute. 
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

When Should You Use A Foam Roller?

You can use a foam roller before your workout to loosen up your muscles and improve your flexibility before jumping into training. You can also foam roll right after a workout as you’re cooling down to help ease muscle soreness. On rest days, it’s always good to do some light movement, and foam rolling is a great activity to try in addition to dynamic stretching. 

When Should You Not Use A Foam Roller?

First off, do not foam roll any areas you have an injury. Although foam rolling is good for you, Calderone mentioned some things to be aware of: 
  • The foam roller is meant for soft tissue, so don’t roll out on boney areas.  
  • Don’t spend too much time rolling out trigger points, because it can lead to more pain and tenderness. 
  • Don’t foam roll on injuries. Let them heal fully before foam rolling. 
Try foam rolling before or after your next workout or as an active recovery exercise on your rest day. You’ll start feeling the amazing benefits of foam rolling before you know it, which will reflect in how you feel day to day.