5 Foam Roller Exercises To Relieve Shoulder Tension

foam roller exercise

This routine is for those of you who come home at the end of the day with a tense neck, tight shoulders and a stiff back.

If you don’t have a foam roller yet, please get one! They’re cheap, effective and perfect for releasing tension at the end of the day.

After hours of sitting hunched over a keyboard it’s incredibly important to re-align your spine and stretch the muscles of your upper body (primarily your neck, chest and shoulders).

This routine will take no more than 5 minutes and will help you de-stress both mentally and physically. And for good measure, I threw in a couple of abdominal exercises to strengthen your core and prevent further back pain.


Lie down on the foam roller with your feet flat on the floor and your arms resting by your side. Take a few seconds to breathe and relax into the position.

Open your arms out to the side with your palms facing up and allow the pectoral muscles to open and stretch. Rest your hands and elbows on the ground if you can do so comfortably. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Arm circles on the foam roller


Keep you abdominals engaged and your shoulders stabilized while make 5 big circles with your arms. Try to brush the floor with your hands but don’t force a big rotation if you’re too stiff. Work within a comfortable range of motion. Repeat in the opposite direction.

arm circles on the foam rollerArm Circles on the foam roller


Place your arms in a “goal post” position with your palms facing up. Be sure to keep your forearms parallel to the floor throughout this entire movement.

Slowly slide your forearms up above your head and then slide them back down. Keep your shoulder blades stabilized and the front of your rib cage closed. Focus using the roller to massage the muscles located between your shoulder blades. Repeat 5 times.

Shoulder stretch on the foam roller


Keep your feet flat on the floor, sit bone distance apart.

Interlace your hands behind your head to support your neck. Keep your elbows wide but within your peripheral vision. Inhale to prepare and exhale to lift your chest, folding right under your ribs. Repeat 5 – 10 times.

chest lift on foam roller


Rest your hands gently down on the floor. Engage your abdominals and draw both legs up into “table top” position.

Lower one leg at a time to tap the floor, moving the thigh bone, not just the foot. Inhale as you lower, exhale as you use your abs to draw the leg back up. Repeat 5 times on each side and 5 times with the legs glued together.

If this puts strain on your lower back, then make your movement small and don’t worry about touching the floor.

ab work on the foam roller

ab work on the foam roller

Questions on how to perform these exercises? Post a comment below…



PS – you may also like how to release knots in your back and the “anti-computer”shoulder series.

Ready to finally stay consistent with exercise – even when you’re short on time & energy? Join me for the FREE Creating Healthy Routines Workshop & walk away with an exercise routine you can put into action immediately!

  1. julie 7 years ago

    Thanks Robin!!!

  2. Paul Beach 7 years ago

    I’ve had a nagging shoulder injury for as long as I can remember. I’ll have to try this, the roller has seemed to fix both my hip and IT Band.

    Thanks for the routine

  3. Steph 7 years ago

    What size foam roller!

  4. MA 6 years ago

    Is there any particular type of foam roller you’re recommend? I’m a foam roller newby and the buying choices are overwhelming!

    • Robin Long 6 years ago

      I love all the rollers from Balanced Body (pilates.com)

  5. Heather 6 years ago

    In the rhomboid release…do you keep the elbows in a right angle with the movement isolated in the shoulder ? Or do the arms straighten as the forearms move above the head?

    • Robin Long 6 years ago

      Great question. The arms straighten as they move above the head. 🙂

  6. Elizabeth 4 years ago

    I think I need this today. Woke up with a really bad stiff neck so hopefully, it can help ease it out a bit!

  7. Danielle Hardesty 4 years ago

    Robin…which one do you use?

  8. Dan 4 years ago

    I have had right side mid back stiffness for years. When I sit or stand too long ( fishing) I get pain and severe stiffness.The pain/stiffness is really close to ribs. Any thoughts?

    • Robin Long 4 years ago

      Hi Dan,
      It’s hard to say for sure without working with you in person. I would definitely try adding regular Pilates to your routine (even 10 minutes a day) and see if it improves!

  9. indian chicken 4 years ago

    Thank you for helping out, fantastic information.

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