Foam Rolling: why & how

Today we’re wrapping up the Baby Steps To Balanced Living series with another easy habit to add into your 2014 routine…foam rolling.

You may have seen them at the gym and wondered what they are, or, you may already have a love affair with this simple prop like I do.

First off, let’s talk about why adding foam rolling into your routine can benefit your health.

Benefits of foam rolling:

  • improved circulation
  • increased flexibility
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced chance of injury
  • quicker post-workout recovery
  • improved range of motion

Essentially, foam rollers are used to perform self-myofascial release.

What is self-myofascial release?

In short, the body is covered in fascial tissue. Fascial tissue is interconnected throughout the entire body, so if the tissue is tight/restricted in one area it can and will affect other areas of the body. Therefore, using the foam roller to keep mucles and tissue healthy can lead to the benefits listed above along with overall improved physical performance.

foam roller

When to use a foam roller:

You can use a foam roller as part of your warm up or cool down. Use it during a warm up to increase circulation and warm up your muscles. Or use it during your cool down to help reduce exercise-induced soreness the next day.

You can use the foam roller to alleviate tight muscles and essentially give yourself a deep tissue massage.

You can also use it as a prop in Pilates to add an extra balance and stability challenge.

3 moves to try:

Hamstring Roll:

Place the roller under you thighs and roll it back in forth between your glutes and the back of your knees. Use your hands for support.


Good for: releasing tight hamstrings, improving flexibility.

IT Band Release:

Place the roller under your hip. Cross your top leg in front of you for support. Use your hands as well. Roll back and forth on the outside of the leg from the hip down to the knee.


Good for: hip or knee pain due to a tight IT band (common with runners & cyclists).

Back Extension:

note: avoid this exercise if you have back injuries and are unsure of what hurts/helps.

Place the foam roller behind your back just below your shoulder blades. Interlace your hands behind your head. Gently let your upper back arch over the roller. Return to starting position and repeat.

photo 3

Good for: releasing tight muscles after a long day of sitting. improving posture, reducing back pain.

Where to buy:

These days most sporting goods stores carry foam rollers for a very affordable price.

If you want one that will last a long time I recommend this one from Balanced Body.

You can also find cheaper options here on Amazon.

What do you think, will you try adding foam rolling into your routine this year?







PS – have you signed up for 28 days of (free!) Pilates yet? We’ll be kicking things off on Wednesday so click here to get on the list.

PPS – you may also like 5 foam roller exercises to relieve shoulder tension and the other Baby Steps To Balanced Living: warm lemon water, dry skin brushing, exercises for a healthy spine and fermented foods.

  1. Bekah 7 years ago

    Thank you for this! I need to invest in and start using a foam roller; I’m sure it would make a world of difference.

    Does the foam roller you recommend work for deeper tissue work as well? I see some foam rollers made especially for this and was wondering how they compare and if it’s worth investing in one of each. Thanks!

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Hi Bekah,
      The one that I linked to (that I use) is good for deep tissue because it’s very firm. The more firm the roller, the deeper the massage. Generally speaking the white foam rollers (that are generally less expensive) aren’t as firm and won’t give you quite the same deep tissue effect. Ones like the one I shared or black rollers tend to be more dense and firm. The good thing is that if you have a firm roller you can adjust the depth of massage since you’re simply using your own body weight.

      Also, if you google them online you’ll find some with little bumps all over them. These are used primarily for massage but do not work well for exercise.

      Does that help?

  2. Bekah 7 years ago

    Thanks, Robin! That helps so much! I’m putting the one you linked to on my wish list.

  3. Venice Scherer 7 years ago

    Thanks, I had one of these rolls behind the entertainment center. Never used it. I love two of the three uses you prescribe. The roller under the shoulder blades was wonderful. I feel so relaxed. I rolled it from the neck to my lower back and held it in positions that felt good pain. Now I am so loose. Thanks so much!!!!

  4. Paige 7 years ago

    I love to roll out with my golf ball muscle roller, best roller i have ever used!! Lemme know what you think?

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