10 Foam Rolling Exercises, Stretches, and Mobility Movements

Ahhh…foam rolling. This long, cylindrical piece of gray foam has seriously been a game-changer for me. Not only in helping this nearly 36-year old body feel 20 again, but also with overall mobility.

What is mobility? Mobility is the ability to move or be moved easily and freely. When our bodies are immobile and inflexibleour likelihood of injury skyrockets. When we are babies and children, our bodies can move so freely that our flexibility seems limitless. Think of how easily a baby’s foot can touch his/her mouth!

As we age, our mobility naturally decreases. In other words, our muscles, tendons, and ligaments become tighter and tighter. When a tight muscle, tendon, or ligament is put in a compromising position (say stretching too deep or even running/jumping too fast or hard without a warm up), injury is highly likely. Tight and unhealthy tissues can snap like an old rubber band.

How do we fix this? By increasing mobility and flexibility with numerous movements, stretches, and exercises done on a regular basis. One incredible tool in making this happen is the foam roller, which can help make the smooth out the layer of myofascial tissue. Our muscle fascia is the layer that surrounds our muscles; when bound up, it can severely limit our muscles range of motion.

In my previous blog I discussed the basics of foam rolling: Why we foam roll, what foam rolling is, and how to choose the right one for you. If you missed that post, check it out here. But for some quick Cliff Notes, here are some major benefits of foam rolling:

  • Improved flexibility and increased joint range of motion
  • Improved performance 
  • Speedier recovery
  • Help prevent shin splints
  • Decrease lower back pain
  • Prevent Runner’s Knee
  • Prevent IT band issues
  • Better circulation
  • Stress reduction
  • Prevent Jumper’s Knee
  • Reduce exercise-related muscle soreness
  • Injury prevention

And as promised, today I’m sharing my fave foam rolling exercises + a back stretch you’ll want to do all. day. long. Your muscles, fascia, flexibility, and mobility will thank you! 

Outfit Details: Reebok Leggings – on SALE (similar here for under $20), Reebok Cropped Tank (love this similar longer style available in four colors and under $15 here), Nike Sports Bra (also available in gray)

Once again, in case you missed the tips from my intro to foam rolling post from last week, or if you need a refresher (because who doesn’t?), here are my best foam rolling tips and tricks!

Heidi’s Tips & Tricks!

  1. Gently emphasize areas of tightness during each exercise. If you have an injury, DO NOT roll directly on the injury. Instead, roll away from it.
  2. For upper body exercises, always avoid contact with your spine.
  3. Pay attention to your form throughout each exercise. This is a slow and methodical process, not a quick-and-done one. 😉
  4. Roll for 1 minute—aiming to cover the muscle 3-4 times, then rest for 30 seconds in between rolls.
  5. Aim for at least 2-3 sessions a week (NOT daily for most exercises). Before and/or after workouts is great too!
  6. If rolling causes too much pain during any exercise, simply omit the rolling part of the exercise and apply as much pressure as you can stand while keeping the foam roller in one place on the muscle(s). Then roll to another part of the muscle and repeat, making sure you work the entire muscle.

Some of my favorite foam rollers:

Now for the exercises you’ve all been waiting for!

Calf Rolls:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended, place the foam roller under your calves, and place your hands on the floor behind you to support your body weight.
  2. Engage your core, gently lift your glutes off of the floor, and slowly roll your calves from your knees to your ankles.

*You can do many of these exercises focusing on a single leg. The same motion applies, but utilizing one leg at a time. 

Hamstring Rolls:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended, place the foam roller under your hamstrings and place your hands on the floor behind you to support your body weight.
  2. Slowly roll your hamstrings from your knees to just below your glutes.

*Again, this is one of the moves you can do with a single leg.

Quad Rolls:

  1. Lie face down on the floor and place the foam roller under your quads.
  2. Place your forearms in front of you to support your body weight.
  3. Engage your core and slowly roll your quads from your hips to your knees.

Inner Thigh Rolls:

  1. Support your body weight with your arms.
  2. Place the foam roller under your inner thigh, shifting your weight onto the roller.
  3. Slowly roll from your upper inner thigh to your knee.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band rolls:

  1. Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath your IT band.
  2. Support your upper body with your forearm and engage your core.
  3. To alleviate too much pressure on your femur, bring your top leg to the floor for added support, then gently roll from your hip to your knee.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Glute Rolls:

  1. Sit on the foam roller.
  2. Shift to your weight to one side and support your body weight with your arms.
  3. Engage your core and slowly roll your glute from top to bottom.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back Rolls:

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie perpendicular to it on your lower back with your arms at your sides to support your body weight.
  2. Bend your knees, engage your core, and using your legs, slowly roll from above your glutes to just below your shoulder blades.

Lower Back Rolls (each side):

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie on it on one side of your lower back with your forearm supporting your body weight.
  2. Engage your core, and using your legs, slowly roll from above your glutes to just below your shoulder blades.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back Rolls:

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie perpendicular to it on your upper back.
  2. Use your hands to support your neck, engage your core, lift your glutes off of the floor and shift your body weight to one side.
  3. Slowly roll from your upper to mid back.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Lat Rolls:This one takes the upper back roll to a whole new level and really isolates the lats.

  1. Lie on your side, making sure your lat is on the roller.
  2. Keep your arm extended as you roll.
  3. Lean in and roll out that lat! Amazing!

Upper Back Stretch: If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you probably get tight chest muscles (which can be very problematic!), and even some upper back pain. Also, for those of you that are avid CrossFitters OR overhead lifters, this stretch will improve your mobility, and consequently, your lift loads tremendously! 

  1. Sit on one end of the foam roller and gently lie back, placing your spine along the roller.
  2. Engage your core (especially if you experience lower back pain), and allow your shoulders to fall towards the floor.
  3. Relax. Gravity is your friend for this one!
  4. Do this stretch several times a day as needed. It is seriously one of my faves!

**Note: Depending on your height, you might need to adjust a little to make sure your spine is on the roller.

For those with limited mobility: Feel free to FIRST do this stretch with arms extended out to the side. Over time, as your flexibility and mobility increases, bend your arms a little closer to 90 degrees (which is the ultimate goal). You will feel this stretch mostly in your chest and shoulders.

For more of a lat stretch: Extend your arms straight overhead and relax. You will feel this mostly in your lats and chest. See below…

So…what do you think? Are you as excited about foam rolling as I am? Hopefully all of the exercises above have given you a glimpse into my routine and newfound LOVE for foam rolling! 

Give these exercises a try, and let me know if foam rolling is a game-changer for you, too!

Xo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Relieve Achy Knees with These 3 Simple Moves
At-Home Body Sculpting || Sexy Back + Shoulder Shaper
Foam Rolling 101: The Basics + How to Choose a Foam Roller
Fit in 9 Minutes: The Busy Woman’s Workout


65 Comments

  1. Lisa Fuller - April 14, 2018

    I have a love hate relationship with my foam roller – it just hurts so much! 🤣 but, I always feel better after doing it!!

    @fromfull2fit

  2. Krystal - April 13, 2018

    Fav blog post bc it challenges me to slow my “roll”! Thanks Heidi 💓. IG : krys5dyes_

  3. Andrea - April 13, 2018

    This is probably one of my favorite blog posts! I always feel like an idiot when I’m foam rolling! #teambruce @aberryhill

  4. Tiffany Showman - April 13, 2018

    This helps open things up when I just don’t feel like moving! @forgeforwardfit

  5. Samantha - April 13, 2018

    Would you recommend someone with a sway back to do the foam roller back stretches?

    • Team Powell - April 16, 2018

      Hi Samantha: If this is a medical issue for you, then I’d definitely chat with your healthcare team about these exercises before doing them. 🙂

  6. Shannon Bailey - April 13, 2018

    I love my foam roller! I needed different ways to open my hip after leg days 🙂 Thanks for the awesome info! @shanibailey

  7. Emily H - April 13, 2018

    These moves keep me moving!! Instagram: @emilygrace_upongrace

  8. Angela Watkins - April 13, 2018

    I love this post!! I love the science behind exercise/nutrition. As much as I love lifting heavy, I also love focusing on mobility. Focusing more on my mobility and stretching over the last year has really helped with my range of motion while lifting. I’ll be 41 next month! I gotta take care of this body! Instagram ~ @onefitmom

  9. Dana Tom - April 13, 2018

    Talk about lifesaver. Doing this before and after workouts have cut my recover time more than half. Hard to pick my favorite blog as I love them alllllll. IG: RoxStar3D

  10. Ciara - April 13, 2018

    After reading this, I bought a foam roller and now I’m addicted! Some of my favorite recovery! Thanks for the tips. @ciaracashley8

  11. Karyn - April 13, 2018

    Love this post! @bwxqueen IG

  12. Erika Torres - April 13, 2018

    I love this post! I’ve noticed way better recovery since I’ve started using a foam roller more frequently. It’s a must for recovery 🙌
    IG: @sweet_eureka

  13. Sydney Folz - April 13, 2018

    Thank you for this! I recently got injuried and my physical therapist said to foam roll! Now I have more ways to do it!
    Booty band give away
    @swole_syd

  14. Megan Hamerl - April 13, 2018

    It’s a LOVE… Hate relationship with the foam roller. Excited to try these new streches! Thank you for providing your insight & knowledge!
    @meganhamerl on Facebook for the booty band giveaway!

  15. Mackenna schwartz - April 13, 2018

    I love foam rolling! Hurts so good thanks for the tips!
    @kennyg1694

  16. Erica - April 13, 2018

    Foam rolling is so painful but I love how I feel after. Thank you for more information.

  17. @staceejean - April 13, 2018

    Love foam rolling, has helped to bring my training back up to par and ease the IT band pain I was having after a long walk. Tight muscles are never a good thing.

  18. Rebecca Reynolds - April 13, 2018

    Oh my gosh I have a love hate relationship with rolling. I need to do it every day. My body will appreciate it. I’m starting over on my workout routine.

  19. Samantha frerichs - April 13, 2018

    This has helped a lot post hip labral tear surgery! Thank you! @frerichs1104

  20. Jennifer Petrie - April 13, 2018

    Love foam rolling and all of its benefits!
    @jennyfromtheblock8302

  21. Kristin Elser - April 13, 2018

    Love love love this! Love my foam roller but basically only had one move I did! I have super tight hips and IT band from running! I’m @kristinelser on facebook for booty band giveaway!

  22. Sylvia - April 13, 2018

    I’m obsessed with foam rolling. Hurts so good!! IG @thesyllife

  23. Natalie Milton - April 13, 2018

    What a great article with so many different uses for the foam roller. God knows we need as much help as we can get to avoid the post workout aches n pains and to keep from stiffening up!! I’m also going to be informing my father in law of these moves as he has been incapacitated with terrible sciatica this last week so he could really use some foam rolling to help with that…thanks for all your amazing tips advice and tutorials Heidi, we really appreciate them xoxo

    @natsomiltso

  24. Amanda Wilkinson - April 13, 2018

    Stretching and foam rolling is such a huge part of my pre and post workout since I’ve had a bad hip injury. My PT recommends it as well. Thanks for your tips and i throughly enjoy all of your positivity!

    Amanda @amandapanndaaa

  25. Lynda Domenico - April 13, 2018

    Great post, I’ve incorporated this into my weekly plans and it’s made such a difference.

  26. Dayleen Yoerger - April 13, 2018

    Since you first posted this, I have been working on being more intentional with stretching and foam rolling. I don’t want to just do these when I’m sore or injured, but as part of my everyday routine! Love these steps and rolls!

    @mommayoerger

  27. Megan B - April 13, 2018

    I am going to try these today! I am feeling those jump squats today and need a good stretch!! @meganblizzard

  28. Kimberly Violett - April 13, 2018

    I have to roll the dough back out after I murder myself with a workout. Love the tips and tricks you share! 😘 @evil.queen.kimberly

  29. Emylly Ralphs - April 13, 2018

    Do most of these before every work out and I loveee the other moves you have shown can’t weight to try them out!! @emyllys_sweatlife

  30. Mandie - April 13, 2018

    Thanks for the tips and tricks! Definitely need to incorporate foam rolling into my workout regimen more!
    @beautifieddesign

  31. Luba - April 13, 2018

    I’ve been needing this post! I never foam roll cause honestly I could never really get the hang of it. I hear people stress the importance of foam rolling but it always felt very awkward to me. Thanks for the instructions and tips. I’ll have to give it another try.
    @lubakotovich

  32. Karen Krisulevicz - April 13, 2018

    As I’m getting older, my body is “asking” for more rolling and stretching. Sometimes it’s just the problem of having the time after trying to squeeze my workout in.

  33. Gisela Villanueva - April 13, 2018

    I really need to buy one of these… My stepson is a personal trainer and swears by these as well. Thank you as always Heidi!!! @gsvillanueva6

  34. Shari Langhi - April 13, 2018

    I loooove foam rolling now thanks to this post post! Stretching is my least favorite thing to do at the gym, but foam rolling is easy & the BEST way to feel better without feeling like you’re “stretching”! I love your app & blog! Thank you for sharing all your tips for health & wellness!

  35. Lien schuller - April 13, 2018

    I need to use my foam rollers more. Love how it cracks my back. IG mssaigon73

  36. Brittany - April 13, 2018

    Thanks for all the tips! This helped me so much! @brittanyarmbright

  37. Dana - April 13, 2018

    This blog helped me so much., so it’s my fav blog post 😊 Decreased IT band and knee pain from rolling! Thanks! @avery.dodge on IG ..

  38. Dana - April 13, 2018

    This blog helped me so much., so it’s my fav blog post 😊 Decreased IT band and knee pain from rolling! Thanks! @avery.dodge on IG

  39. Tammy - April 13, 2018

    Thanks for these!! I really need to get my foam roller out and start rolling again. So right!!
    @fitflygirl88

  40. Amanda - April 13, 2018

    I read this a little while back and was SO thankful for the info- foam rolling is something I’ve been curious (but clueless) about, and you gave some much needed and useful insight! Thank you 🙂 IG is @simplyamandap

  41. sarahfdodson - April 13, 2018

    Oh my gosh, I really needed this info! I always passively roll out after a work, never sure if I’m doing it right! I was commenting because of the band giveaway and I’m so glad I went peeking around the site, this info in invaluable! Heidi you’re amazing! I love everything you post on insta and now I’ll be checking out your blog more often! Best, Sarah
    sarahfdodon (ig)

  42. Yvonne - April 13, 2018

    Love this post! My foam roller is my “go to” post workout. It’s definitely a love/hate relationship for me. 😍😪
    @iphotofly

  43. Anna-Kaisa - April 13, 2018

    Favorite post. Foam rollin is a real lifesaver! You are awesome! IG @annakaisatyrvainen

  44. Alana D - April 13, 2018

    I love these! They helped me so much 😊❤️

  45. Ashley - April 13, 2018

    I can always learn more when it comes to foam rolling! This is my favourite blog post, and my handle is @AshyL17

  46. @karlitaglowred - April 12, 2018

    favorite blog post ! definitely using this as reference i am in the middle of getting certified as a personal trainer and we are covering foam rolling right now thank
    you ! @karlitaglowred

  47. Tiffany McClure - April 12, 2018

    Thank you for this Info, it was so helpful! I love the foam roller! Love this blog post!
    @tiffanymcclure6 is my handle

  48. Rebecca - April 12, 2018

    Thank you for the post. Very informative. Will have to incorporate some of these into my own workouts. @rebeccabbierman

  49. Jennifer - April 12, 2018

    Need to start foam rolling. Hoping it will help my bum knee and hip issues/pain.

  50. Samantha Jones - April 12, 2018

    I love this. There’s so many movements I’ve never thought of before. @jonesam85

  51. Amy Evans. - April 12, 2018

    I love foam rolling. I will have to try the inner thigh one.
    Amy
    IG. @stgeorgegirl

  52. Amy Bauer Tome - April 12, 2018

    Foam rolling has been such a lifesaver for me, especially with my back injuries!
    Thanks for the post! @ilovemybixo

  53. Fawn - April 12, 2018

    After reading this, I suppose it’s time to foam roll :(((( ouch, ouch and ouch but so, so so important. :):):) IG: @phanita8

  54. Marley Gird - April 12, 2018

    #bootybandentry
    Literally one of my favorite blog posts 🙂
    @marley.za

  55. Steph - April 12, 2018

    Great post, very useful!! Instagram handle @_slang_06

  56. Heather - April 12, 2018

    Always learning and growing. THANKYOU THANKYOU for your wealth of knowledge!!! Just used these techniques after my first 10 K!!! Helped me recover faster

  57. Lori Gilmore - April 12, 2018

    Love this post!!! Doing these helped so much with knee pain I was having after workouts!
    @gilmore710

  58. Mia - April 12, 2018

    LOVE this post!! Proper technique is so important with all exercises but so hard when it comes to stretching and foam rolling. Thank you! @mia_whitney

  59. Lydia - April 12, 2018

    This has got to be my very favorite post ! I’m loving my foam roller ! Who needs to spend extra money on a massage when you can do it at hone ? @lydiajessop

  60. Hildy - March 22, 2018

    Thank you for this! I have to go steal my husband’s foam roller now…

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