Foam Roller Exercises

Foam rollers

Self-myofascial release is a way of stretching the fascia yourself, without a therapist to do it for you. In most cases, this is done using a foam roller – a cylinder of dense foam. Foam rollers can also be used to perform other exercises too, such as balance and core strengthening exercises.

Myofascial release foam roller exercises

Adductor Muscles

  • This exercise gently massages the adductor muscles in the groin.
  • It might be done as part of a warm up, or for treating a groin strain.
  • The athlete rolls the inside of the groin over the roller applying more pressure

Calf Muscles

  • This exercise massages the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg.
  • The leg is rolled over the roller along the full length of the muscles from the ankle to just below the knee and back again.
  • More pressure is applied from the ankle upwards following the direction of blood flow in the muscles.

Hamstring Muscles

  • These foam roller exercises massage and applies myofascial release to the hamstring muscles.
  • Pressure is applied from just above the knee upwards following the direction of blood flow.
  • This exercise can be done at home as part of a hamstring strain rehab program.


  • This exercise gently massages the adductor muscles in the groin.
  • The athlete rolls the inside of the groin over the roller applying more pressure from the knee upwards following the direction of blood flow through the muscles.
  • This exercise may be used as part of a groin strain rehab program.

Iliotibial Band

  • ITB band foam roller exercises perform a myofascial release and stretch on the iliotibial band which passes down the outside of the thigh and attaches to the knee.
  • It is a long tendon of the tensor fascia muscle in the hip and is associated with iliotibial band friction syndrome or runners knee.
  • The foam roller is rolled along the length of the IT band with more emphasis or weight applied to the upstroke than the down so as to follow the direction of blood flow in the leg muscles.

Latisimuss Dorsi

  • With the athlete positioned on their side, the large latisimuss Dorsi muscle can be worked.
  • Pressure is applied along the full length of the muscle from the top of the lower back to just underneath the arm.

Lower Abs

  • This exercise strengthens the lower abdominal muscles.
  • Lying on the back with the knees bent the roller is placed between the knees.
  • Keeping the back flat the lower abdominal muscles are tightened to bring the knees up and towards the chest.

Peroneal Muscles

  • Foam roller exercises for myofascial release and stretching of the peroneal muscles on the outside of the lower leg.
  • This exercise massages the peroneal muscles at the back and side of the lower leg.
  • These muscles are heavily used in running and regular massage here can help avoid overuse injuries of the lower leg.
  • More pressure is applied from the ankle upwards in the direction of blood flow within the muscles.

Piriformis Muscle

  • The piriformis muscle is a deep outward rotating muscle in the buttock. It can become tight through overuse.
  • As the sciatic nerve passes close to this muscle (through the muscle in some people) sciatic pain and symptoms may be present.
  • The foam roller is used to apply deep tissue myofascial release massage to the muscle.

Quadratus Lumborum

  • This exercise massages the quadratus lumborum muscle at the side of the lower back.
  • Position the roller under the lower back side on and gently roll up and down the roller to relax the muscle.
  • The quadratus lumborum muscle is often tight in patients complaining of low back pain as well as those with mild scoliosis or curving of the spine.

Quadriceps muscles

  • This exercise performs a myofascial release and stretches on the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh.
  • The roller is applied along as full a length of the muscle as possible with more emphasis or weight from the knee upwards, following the direction of blood flow along the muscles.

Upper Back

  • This exercise massages the thoracic or upper area of the spine.
  • With hands behind the head, the athlete gently rolls up and down from the lower ribs to the shoulders.
  • This is an excellent exercise for improving range of motion and helping to relieve upper back pain.

Foam roller strengthening exercises

Abdominal crunch

  • This is an advanced exercise for working the abdominal and core muscles.
  • Lying on the front with the roller under the thighs the knees are pulled up towards the chest and then slowly returned.
  • This can be made easier by not going quite so far down from the kneeling position.

Oblique Muscles

  • This exercise strengthens the oblique muscles.
  • Lying on the back with the roller placed under the upper back, the athlete rolls the ball from side to side.
  • This is excellent for tightening the stomach and working the core muscles.

Press Up

  • A simple press up exercise can be performed using the foam roller.
  • An easy version can be done on the knees whilst a more advanced version is done with the body straight.
  • The roller slightly changes the angle working the lower chest muscles more.

Bridge Exercise

  • This exercise strengthens the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
  • With the roller placed under the feet, the athlete lifts the hips upwards.
  • To make this exercise more difficult it can be done with one leg.

Foam roller balance exercise

  • This is a variation of a standard squat exercise.
  • A high level of balance is required.
  • This exercise works the synergist muscles which support and work with the main leg and hip muscles.

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