Are You Using a Foam Roller Wrong? How to Soothe Muscles

Muscular balance, increased range of motion, reduced soreness, and improved recovery. Nearly every single client I work with is looking for improvement in at least one of those areas.

Foam rolling (or self-myofascial release) can help with those exact benefits in less than 10 minutes.

Self-myofascial release (SMR) is basically self massage using trigger points to break down soft tissue adhesions. When applying pressure to the muscle tissue, signals are sent to the Golgi tendon organs, signaling the muscle to relax.

In an ideal world, we'd all have a sports massage therapist on call after our training -- at least in my ideal world. Fortunately, we can reap similar benefits by using an inexpensive tool called the foam roller.

I recommend using the foam roller in both your warm up and cool down. In the warm up, foam rolling should be done before any stretching, and in the cool down, on the muscle groups that were used the most in the workout.

One mistake I see most often with foam rolling is constant movement, rather than stopping on the tighter areas. When slowly rolling along the muscle tissue, stop and hold on any area that feels especially tight for 15 to 90 seconds. It should feel uncomfortable, but never extremely painful. It does, ease up on the pressure.

To start, let's hit all of the major muscle groups.

Thoracic Spine/Mid-back muscles

how to use a foam roller

In a supine position with the foam roller across the mid back, place hands across chest or behind the head. Brace the core, and slowly roll up to your shoulders, and down to your rib cage.


how to use a foam roller

Seated on the foam roller, with one leg crossed over the opposite knee, apply pressure to the hip-area of the crossed knee, stopping at any tender spots.

Gastrocnemius + Soleus/Calves

how to use a foam roller

Start in a seated position with both legs extended onto the foam roller. Lift the hips up off the ground, and roller across the muscle. If you need more pressure, cross one leg atop of the other.

Quads, IT band, and TFL

how to use a foam roller

In a prone position, with the foam roller directly under one quad/leg, apply pressure and slowly roll along the belly of the muscle, stopping a couple inches shy of the knee.

how to use a foam roller

Shift your body to the right, so that you're now facing away from the foam roller, and roll it along the side of your thigh, stopping at any tight spots. Move all the way up toward the hip to hit the small, but often tight, tensor fascia latae.

Tibialis anterior/muscle on the front of the lower leg

how to use a foam roller

In a crouching position, place one leg on top of the foam roller, applying pressure, and rolling and stopping along the tight spots.

It's a good idea to use the foam roller across the major muscle groups, spending a little while longer on those that are especially tight, or prone to tightness on you.

Need a better visual of how to use your foam roller? Watch this video.

Team Sierra blogger
posted by
Paige Kumpf
Blogger at Your Trainer Paige
As a member of #TeamSierra, Paige Kumpf receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Paige is a personal trainer, fitness expert, and fitness instructor in the wonderful state of Colorado. Her passion in life is to empower women to find joy and fulfillment through living a healthier, happier life. Learn more on her blog, Your Trainer Paige or on Twitter. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
Comments (2)
9/14/2016 at 9:29 AM
Are the Maji rollers softer than the OPTP rollers? I have an OPTP and it's pretty hard and hurts to use!
9/19/2016 at 10:31 AM
The Maji roller used here is considered to have a moderate density. I'm not sure whether or not it would be softer than the OPTP foam roller you use; it depends on the specific type of OPTP foam roller you have and what its density rating is. -Lauren
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