How to use a Foam Roller

How to use a Foam Roller

Posted by Gulit Upadhyay on 4th Apr 2022

Whenever our muscles hurt or feel sore, when we visit the ache-town in the pain-city, We long for full body Massages. But there is an alternative to fix our muscle pain for free and effectively. Today we will discuss how should we use foam rollers to get rid of muscle soreness


One should lay next to the foam roller on their back parallel to it with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. The person should make sure the foam roller is in a position that will support both the head and the pelvis when they get on. Then the person should reach the nearest arm over the roller to the other side of the ground and press up with the muscles on the backs of the legs to carefully place their body on the foam roller, which will be running underneath the person's spine. Before getting on the roller, one should also gently engage the deep core abdominals. Getting on and off the roller should be done purposefully and carefully. The body should be supported entirely from the person's head to the pelvis without either area off the roller.




This is one of my most FAVORITE foam roller exercises! The person lays on their back with the foam roller underneath them along their spine. The arms should rest at their sides. The feet should be flat on the mat with the knees bent. The spacing of the feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, or whatever distance the person feels comfortable and secure when laying on the roller. A more expansive space will give a person more support.

While lying on the foam roller, one can relax and take deep, diaphragmatic breaths. The shoulders should be resting comfortably without tension or "scrunching up" toward the head.

Pectoral (chest) Stretch on Foam Roller- arms at sides.


(All the steps for this arm position are the same as the previous description, except for the placement of the arms.) Generally, if a person allows the arms to stretch out to the sides perpendicular to the body, it will increase the stretch across the chest. The palms should be facing up toward the ceiling. The higher the outstretched arms are moved up towards the head, generally, most people will feel an even stronger stretch across the chest in a slightly different chest area. The arms should only rest in a position where the person can lay relaxed, comfortable and while taking diaphragmatic breaths. The components should also be able to rest simple and without any discomfort. If any position is uncomfortable, the stretch is too much, and the person should get out of the position.

For both versions of the pectoral stretch, a person may lay in this position for up 1 to 2 minutes if comfortable. The person may feel a gentle opening and stretch across their chest. Another benefit of this exercise may be increased ease with standing in a more upright posture and the shoulders resting back in a more appropriate position (versus being too forward). This is especially true if this exercise is done consistently over time.

Pectoral (chest) Stretch on Foam Roller- arms stretched out & slightly upward


The starting position for this exercise is the same as the pectoral stretch, except the person should place their feet in a broader stance on the floor. Generally, most people will also prefer to have their arms outstretched to the sides comfortably. Their hands may turn down toward the ground to assist with balance when this exercise is performed.

Pushing with one foot toward the other side, the person will roll their body from side to side on the foam roller. For example, if a person uses their right leg to push toward the left side, the roller will roll slightly toward the right side underneath their body. The person only pushes far enough so that the roller will massage the right side of the body without rolling out from underneath the person. Do not push too far to the side! Generally, the roller will go toward the inside of the person's shoulder blade region. The person may feel an excellent release of some muscles that tend to get tight around the shoulder blade.

The person can roll back and forth from side-to-side using this same technique in opposite directions on both sides of the body.

Some people will like to focus on small rolls back and forth on one side of the body for a moment to release tension spots near the shoulder blade region more effectively.

This exercise can be performed up to 4-5 times side-to-side, as long as it is comfortable.

Side to side Parallel Foam Rolling.


The base starting position for this exercise is the same as the pectoral stretch. Once the body is resting comfortably on the roller (as described in the pectoral stretch exercise), raise the arms toward the ceiling with the palms facing one another.

To start this exercise, the person should gently activate their deepest abdominal muscle for gentle core support. (Read my prior blog post #1 on "Bridging," where I describe how to start your deep, transverse abdomen muscle in its description of the "Hip Lift" version.) Take an inhale through the nose to prepare for movement. The arms will then move in opposite directions, one reaching up towards the head and the other reaching towards the person's hip. The arms should only move as far as the person is comfortable without discomfort. This will vary for every person, depending on their varying flexibility. The person will continue to inhale through their nose and exhale through pursed lips as the arms switch directions regularly.

The person should also pay attention so that their back does NOT provide arch/move and their ribs do not "poke up" with the arm movement. The person also should keep the body stable on the right and left sides. There should be no shortening (side bending) or lengthening of either body side. If the person cannot control either of these things from happening, the person should reduce the movement of the arms to a range that can be owned.

This exercise can be performed for up to 8-10 arm repetitions if it is comfortable.

Alternate Arm Flexion on the Foam Roller


When one is comfortable with the non-weighted exercise, a light 1-2 pound weight, as appropriate, can be added to increase the challenge of this exercise and help assist gentle stretching/mobility of the arms and chest region.


A person can move both arms up overhead and then down toward the hips simultaneously together. Because both arms are moving together, the exercise is more symmetrical, so it will be less challenging if your body likes to bend side with the other version. But it may be more challenging for balance, and it should also generally be MORE challenging to control your back from arching/moving and to keep your ribs in the proper position.

Some examples of various foam rollers (& a mat rolled up for beginners)


These exercises should alleviate tension in common spots of the body. If any of these exercises are too uncomfortable or cause any pain, they should be discontinued immediately.

When laying on the roller or performing any exercise on it, one should focus on their breathing. One should not hold their breath as it can cause tension in some muscles. A natural breathing pattern allows oxygen to circulate into your body's tissues, among other things!

If a person has a forward head, sometimes the person may need a small mat or a towel under their head to support it in a comfortable position.

All exercises with movement should be performed at a slow, comfortable pace focusing on the proper body positions described while also continuing to maintain a regular breathing pattern.

There are various densities and sizes of foam rollers.

Denser foam rollers are generally suitable for people who need a deeper pressure myofascial release and have been doing foam roller exercises for some time, and would like more intense pressure on their sore spots.

Softer foam rollers for people who may be more sensitive to pressure on their sore spots.

Some foam rollers come with bumps or patterns on their surface. This can put a different kind of pressure on the body as the person is working. Generally, the more prominent bumps will be more intense.

Foam rollers come in ½ arcs (essentially, it is cut in half with one flat side), so a person can either:

1) lay the flat side on the floor, giving it extra stability underneath it but still allowing the body to lay on it and open up its tight chest and arms, among other things. This will allow a more gentle exercise. (It will not roll, so you will not be able to do the "side-to-side exercise.")

2) lay their body on the flat side while challenging the arc movement on the floor. This version can be more challenging than it seems! The focus would be to keep the foam roller parallel to the floor without wobbling from side to side on its arc.

If a soft foam roller even seems too intense to start, sometimes a person can roll up a large towel or even a yoga mat into a cylinder and use that to get a nice gentle chest stretch. In my picture of a few various options, I included a yoga mat that was rolled up. (Try to get it more tightly rolled, mine kept unwinding for the photo!) A "Towel roll" version is an excellent, very gentle way to prepare for these foam roller exercises for beginners and those who need to open up a tight chest region.


Look for our next Foam Roller blog posts! In more posts, we will explain some other great advanced foam roller myofascial releases and how to do deep abdominal stabilization exercises while on the foam roller in another.

The exercise ideas I presented today are just the "tip of the iceberg"! You can do so many other incredible variations once you know the basics! Again look for my other future blog posts to learn other great exercises on the foam roller. It can be used in many, many different ways and even as a tool to release tight muscles of the legs! It is such a great tool that can be used to keep the entire body more relaxed and mobile, but also to keep it in great shape!