15 Best Foam Roller Exercises With Videos

Reviewed by Dr. Sudhansu Singh, BPT Dr. Sudhansu Singh Dr. Sudhansu SinghBPT facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years

Foam rolling can give you instant relief from sore muscles and joint pain – athletes and fitness professionals can vouch for that. Working out rigorously and not resting enough can lead to sore muscles and joint pain. In fact, your age and lifestyle choices are also big factors that trigger inflammation. Though painkillers and sprays give you quick relief, in the long term, they can worsen your problem. Foam roller exercises, on the other hand, are recommended by orthopedists and physiotherapists and have no side effects.

These exercises are based on the principle that applying mechanical pressure using your own body weight can mimic the effects of actual massage therapy. Research has proven that foam roller exercises can help reduce muscle and joint pain, increase flexibility and blood flow, and also improve mood (1) (2).  Foam rollers are inexpensive, and using them for 10 minutes will relax and loosen your tight muscles. So, read on and watch the videos to learn how to use a foam roller like a pro from the experts to relieve pain from different parts of your body. But first, let’s check out a general foam roller exercise routine.

General Foam Roller Routine

What You Need: A soft mat, a soft ball, golf ball, and a foam roller (6 by 18 inches or 6 by 36 inches). You can buy foam rollers online.
How To Do: Position the foam roller right where you are experiencing pain or want to loosen the muscle. Lie on top of the foam and slowly move up and down or back or forth to massage your muscles. (Discussed in detail with videos in the article.)
Time: You will need to do this for 5-10 minutes.
Frequency: Do this twice daily initially. Then, do it every alternate day.
Level: Anyone can do foam roller exercises. It requires no special skills.

1. Foam Roller Exercise For Upper Back And Shoulder Pain

Most of us keep hunching in front of our computers all day long. This leads to upper backache and a hunched back. A hunchback definitely does not look cool, and it can also lead to spine deformities. Here’s a video that will show you how to use the rolling foam to relieve upper back and shoulder pain.


  1. Lie down on your back with the rolling foam underneath your upper back or traps (trapezius muscle). Cross your hands on your shoulders, lift your body off the ground and support your body on your heels.
  2. Move up and down and roll the foam roller from the top to the middle of your back.
  3. Do this for 2 minutes.
  4. If you want to reduce the soreness of your rhomboids or the muscles in your middle back, turn the roller vertically and position it underneath your spine with your buttocks at the lower end of the roller.
  5. Lie down on the roller carefully. Cross your hands on your shoulder, flex your knees, and keep your feet flat on the ground.
  6. Now, roll side to side to massage your middle back. Shift your weight towards the right and roll for a minute. Then, shift your weight towards the left and roll for a minute


Look at the ceiling while doing this exercise. Trying to look at your legs may stress the spine.

 2. Foam Roller Exercise For Neck Pain

Sitting all day long and staring at our computers can put a lot of stress on your neck and shoulders. Release the tension by using a rolling foam. Here’s how to do it.


  1. Position the rolling foam underneath your neck and lie down on your back.
  2. You can just move your neck from one side to the other to massage it with the roller.
  3. Move the roller a little bit down and again move your neck from one side to the other to massage it.
  4. Do this 10 times.


Lie down on your left and right alternately to release some more tension from your neck.

3. Foam Roller Exercise For Calf Muscle Pain

Pain in the calf muscles can hinder your movements while walking, standing, and/or running. Sore calf muscles can also affect your daily activities. So, don’t neglect that pain. Relax your calf muscles with the help of a foam roller. This is one of the best foam roller exercises for calves. Here’s how to do it.


  1. Place the roller foam underneath your calves.
  2. Place your hands beside your hips, directly below your shoulders, and the palms flat on the ground.
  3. Now, raise your hips from the floor with the foam roller underneath your calves.
  4. Slowly roll forward and backward to move the roller from below your knees to the starting point of your ankles.
  5. You can turn your legs inward or outward to massage different areas of the calves.
  6. To make this exercise more effective, you can use a tennis ball and keep it underneath your calf and roll it.
  7. Repeat this 10 times.


You can use a stick to massage your calves so that you can control the pressure.

4. Foam Roller Exercise To Relax Tightened Thighs (Quads)

If you workout excessively, your thigh muscles will become tight. When this prevails for a long period, it can give rise to thigh muscle pain. Running, jogging, dancing, sitting down, and even walking can be painful. A rolling foam can help relax your quadriceps and release the tension. Here’s how to do it.


  1. Lie down on your stomach and keep the rolling foam underneath your thighs, just a little above your knees. Support your body by flexing your toes and fixing them on the floor. Keep your hands straight down on the ground, and the palms flat.
  2. Roll up and down from the start of your knees to your upper thighs.
  3. If this is not intense enough, flex your elbows and come down to a plank position.
  4. Now, move the rolling foam up and down.
  5. Do this 10 times.


To increase the intensity, do this exercise on one leg at a time. Fold one leg and repeat the steps mentioned above with the other leg.

5. Foam Roller Exercise To Loosen The Hamstrings

A painful hamstring has got to be one of the worst things you can experience while working out. This exercise will provide relief for sure.


  1. Sit on top of your foam roller. Place your hands behind you, and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Walk back until your legs are extended, and the roller is placed underneath your thighs.
  3. Roll back and forth from where your butt ends to the point where your knees start.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.
  5. Now, put one leg over the other to apply more pressure and roll the foam.
  6. Repeat this for the other leg as well.
  7. Do this for 1 minute.


Point your palms outwards to balance your body.

6. Foam Roller Exercise To Relax The Inner Thighs (Adductors)

Before or after running, jogging or a sprint, it is always good to relax your inner thigh muscles by doing this exercise. Here’s how you can do it.


  1. Lie down on your left and support your body with the elbows.
  2. Bend your right knee and extend the leg.
  3. Place the rolling foam under your extended leg near the groin area. Turn your body towards the floor and support your upper body with your elbows.
  4. Roll your body to the right and come back to your original position again.
  5. Do this 10 times.
  6. Repeat this with the left leg.


Move your extended leg’s foot up and down to increase circulation.

 7. Foam Roller Exercise For The Outer Thighs (Iliotibial Band)

 A constant ache in your hips that radiates down your pelvic area till your knees can be the result of a constricted Iliotibial band. It may be due to an injury during hiking, cycling, or running. Try this easy rolling foam exercise at home to relax your outer thigh muscles. Here’s how you should do it.


  1. Come on to one side and place the rolling foam just below your hip. Stack your legs together, and support your upper body with the hands fixed to the floor.
  2. Cross your left leg over the right one.
  3. Support your upper body with your right arm.
  4. Roll the rolling foam down just above your knee and then roll up.
  5. Do this 10 times.
  6. Flip over and do this on the other side as well.


To increase the intensity, stack your legs. Make sure you keep your balance.

 8. Foam Roller Exercise For Leg Pain (Shin)

 A painful and injured shin can interrupt your sleep. Moreover, you will find it difficult to climb the stairs, do yoga, or even fold your legs. Before it gets worse, roll your shins on the rolling foam to relax and accelerate the healing. Here are the steps to do it correctly.


  1. Place the rolling foam under your shin (just below the knee).
  2. Place your hands in front of your shoulder on the mat and assume the Cat Pose.
  3. Use your core and pelvic muscles to roll the rolling foam backward and forward (from the tips of your feet to just below your knees).
  4. You can spot massage your sore muscle by pulsing the roll in a specific area.
  5. You can also use a roller known as the tiger tail to massage the muscles at the front of your leg.
  6. Do this for a minute.


Put one leg on the other and do this exercise to make it more intense.

9. Foam Roller Exercise For Lower Back Pain And The Glutes

Here comes one of the most effective foam roller exercises for lower back pain relief. Relaxing both your glutes and hamstrings using a rolling foam will relieve your lower backache and sore muscles. Follow the steps given below to get relief and go about your routine without any roadblocks.


  1. Sit erect with your legs flexed. Place the roller just behind your buttocks, above your dimples, and towards the spine. Be careful when you do this exercise as the roller will be near the kidney line, and you must change its position if you experience any sharp abnormal pain.
  2. Lean on the roller comfortably. Pull your abs down, relax your shoulder blades, and place your arms by your side.
  3. Lift your buttocks and make very small movements back and forth. Do this for 30 seconds.
  4. Position the roller right across the dimples. Lie on your back, lift your buttocks, put your hands along the sides of the roller, and raise your legs up. Make sure your knees are flexed.
  5. Move your buttocks right and left so that your lower back gets massaged.
  6. You can also slowly move your knees together in circles to release the tightened muscles.
  7. Repeat 10 times.


As you roll forward and backward, move your feet outward and inward to improve circulation.

10. Foam Roller Exercise To Loosen Tight Glutes

The glutes play a major role in all our movements. When they are overworked, we experience stiffness while sitting down and/or standing up. Here’s how you can relax your glutes using a rolling foam.


  1. Sit on the roller with your hands and feet on the floor.
  2. Now, lift your left leg and place the left ankle over the right thigh.
  3. Support your weight on your hands and one foot.
  4. Roll your butt back and forth on the roller from where it starts to where it ends.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.
  6. Do this for 2 minutes.

As you roll forward and backward, move your feet outward and inward to improve circulation. You can also stack up your legs to increase the intensity of the exercise.

11. Foam Roller Exercise For Back And Arm Pain

Sometimes, you might experience a tightness when you raise your arms. This can be due to gymming or even dancing. Without a proper warm-up session, you are at a risk of injuring your latissimus dorsi muscles. Follow these steps to relax the lats.


  1. Lie down on your right and place the roller under the side of your right shoulder. Keep your right hand extended and left hand on the floor to support your body.
  2. Place your left foot parallel to the floor and bend your left knee.
  3. Roll back and forth all over your flank by straightening and bending the left knee.
  4. Change your position by rolling downward and moving sideways to spot massage the different part of your lat muscles.
  5. Do this on the other side as well.
  6. Repeat 10 times.


To increase the intensity, point the thumb of your extended arm to the ceiling.

 12. Foam Roller Exercise For Sore Upper Arms

The muscles in the upper arms tend to undergo a lot of wear and tear as we constantly use our forelimbs. Relax and repair your upper arm muscles by doing this rolling foam exercise. Here are the steps.


  1. Place the foam roller on a table.
  2. Stand next to the table and place your arm on the roller.
  3. Move your arms back and forth to massage your triceps.
  4. Change the position of your roller towards your right and roll the foam.
  5. Roll the left side of your arm.
  6. Place the foam roller parallel to your body, extend your arm over it, and twist your hand inward so that you can massage your biceps.
  7. Do this 10 times.


You can do this exercise by partially lying on one side.

 13. Foam Roller Exercise For A Flat Tummy

Doing too many push-ups, crunches, and other core exercises may cause core muscle cramps. Bending down or doing side crunches can become a challenge in that case. Worry not! You can relax your abs and get a flat tummy by using a rolling foam. Here’s how.


  1. Place the roller underneath the hips and lie down on your back. Keep your knees flexed and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift the knees up, inhale, and extend the legs out.
  3. Exhale and pull the knees back in.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.
  5. Now, extend your legs up and inhale and lower your legs.
  6. Exhale and bring your legs back up.
  7. Repeat this 10 times.
  8. Place the hands on top of the roller, extend both the legs up, inhale and roll your lower body over. Keep the legs extended, and the toes flexed.
  9. Exhale and slowly get back to the starting position.
  10. Do this 5 times.
  11. Now, place the foam roller underneath your shins. Lift your body and support it by placing your palms flat on the ground.
  12. Exhale and flex your knees. Pull your belly in, and roll the foam roller down towards your feet as you crunch up.
  13. Inhale and get back to the starting position.
  14. Do this 10 times.
  15. Lie down on your tummy, extend your arms, and place the foam roller underneath both your arms.
  16. Inhale, roll the shoulders back, open your chest, roll till your wrist and then roll back to the starting position as you exhale.
  17. Repeat this 10 times.
  18. Lie on your side and place the roller right below your elbow, extend your other arm up, and squeeze the legs together. Exhale and pull your legs up to reach your extended arm as you roll the roller towards your wrist.
  19. Exhale and come back to your starting position.
  20. Repeat this 10 times.


Do not overdo these exercises.

14. Foam Roller Exercise For Wrist Extensors And Flexors

Typing away all day long in the office or at school can lead to a sore wrist. It is a good idea to relax your wrist at periodic intervals by using the rolling foam. Here is how to do it.


  1. For this exercise, you need a soft ball. You can also do it with a regular foam roller.
  2. Place the foam ball right below your wrist and apply pressure with the palm of your other hand.
  3. Roll upward and downward.
  4. You can also do this on the floor by placing your hand right on top of the ball and applying pressure with the same hand and rolling the ball. This will help massage your flexors.
  5. Now, to massage the extensors, turn your hand upside down and place it on the foam ball on the floor or on the table.
  6. Roll the foam ball to massage your extensors.
  7. Do this 10 times.


Make a fist as you inhale and open the fist as you exhale to improve circulation.

15. Foam Roller Exercise To Relax And Soothe The Feet

Ever feel all the tension in your feet vanishing like magic the moment you dip them in warm water? That’s because warm water tends to relax the muscles in your feet. Well, you can get the same relief if you do leg foam roller exercises. Here are the steps.


  1. For this exercise, you need a small foam ball or a golf ball.
  2. Place the golf ball on the floor, put your foot on it and roll it, starting from your heel.
  3. Do this for 2 minutes on each foot.


Use a yoga mat so that the ball doesn’t slip away.

So, there you have it – 15 foam rolling exercises. These exercises will benefit you in many ways. Take a look!

Benefits Of Foam Roller Exercises

  • The foam roller gives the benefits of a sports massage. It uses deep compression to break the tight muscles and works out the kinks and knots in them.
  • Foam rolling improves blood circulation and reduces inflammation.
  • It also reduces the development of scar tissue and joint stress.
  • You can do it anytime – before or after a workout, while watching TV, or just before going to sleep.
  • Some people think that foam rolling is a post-workout exercise. But, that is a wrong assumption. You should be doing some rolling before you start your workout too. Foam rolling loosens up your muscles and

improves flexibility, which allows you to do other exercises more effectively.

Things To Remember

  • Do not roll your organs – it can lead to injuries.
  • Do not roll your joints or bones.
  • Do not hold your breath during rolling. Breathe deeply and relax.
  • Make sure the roller stays under your muscles all the time.

By doing these recommended exercises, you will definitely feel more relaxed, sleep better, and be able to concentrate on your work. So, put an end to all your body aches and live your life to the fullest.


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Dr. Sudhansu Singh is a Physiotherapist, Sports and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, and Neuro Physiotherapist with 8 years of experience. He is a member of the Federation of Indian Manual Therapists (FIMT) and an active member of the Delhi Council of Physiotherapy and FIMT Australia Association. Dr. Singh earned his Bachelor's degree in Physiotherapy from Padmashree Institute of Physiotherapy, Bangalore, Rajiv Gandhi...read full bio

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