What exactly is a foam roller?

A foam roller is usually a long, cylindrical device made up of foam that is used for fitness routines, physical therapy and even massages. They come in a variety of many different colors, shapes, textures and lengths. Some types are recommended for certain uses and purposes more than others as the make of these rollers are targeted for certain areas of the body or certain exercises.

What do they do? 

Foam rollers have a multitude of benefits and uses, many fitness enthusiasts and even athletes swear by them. Foam rolling may look simple and easy as it is a self-manual therapy technique often used to release trigger points, improve flexibility, and even help injured muscles heal or reducing the delayed onset muscle soreness commonly known as DOMS. These rollers are mainly used in the process of rolling out tight muscles and relieving tension, which can feel very good if muscles are tight and need a good stretch.


Using a foam roller to self-soothe and stretch is a popular exercise. It helps to relieve the fascia. Fascia literally means “band” in Latin and is mostly made up of collagen. It is a connective tissue that keeps the body together. Fascia can sometimes found to be tight, restrictive and adhesive. This is caused by a myriad of things like our poor lifestyle choices, bad posture, and also overworking our bodies causing strain or even injury to our muscles. Foam rollers are said to be a myofascial release, and rightfully so. They work hand-in-hand with nervous systems to tell your muscles to loosen up. 

Foam rolling is a great way to identify which part exactly is tight and tense. It is suggested to work on the problem area for approximately thirty to sixty seconds until the pain or tension goes away. This will allow you to be more flexible and able-bodied to do more exercises and range of motions, keeping you recovered and ready for the next time you workout!


Foam rollers can also be used for fitness routines, more commonly in Pilates or yoga. Rollers can be used to maintain balance or challenge it, adding instability to the routine to really push your body. Again, they can also be used for pre and post workout stretches and bending motions. Most of the time, rollers are used for strengthening and stretching the lower body, particularly the hamstrings, calves and even glutes. 

Some examples of great exercises that you can use a foam roller with:

  • Quad Roll

This is great for those with a more sedentary lifestyle. Foam roller is placed underneath the quads while you lie on it in plank position, rolling the foam roller until the upper part of the knee, and back against the hip flexors. Hitting trigger points should have you stay there for at least 30 seconds to release any tension. 

  • Glutes Roll

Done essentially by sitting on the foam roller, bending the knees, and with one leg crossed over the opposite knee begin by rolling over the glutes.

  • Calves Roll

Foam roller is placed underneath the calves, use your arms extended behind you to roll back and forth to stretch them out.

  • IT Band 

IT Bands run from you outer thigh, from your hip to your knee. Do this exercise by placing the foam roller underneath the side and balancing your weight on your forearms. Bend the other leg and start rolling the side of the thigh and repeat on the other side. 

  • Upper Back 

Best for those that need an improvement in their posture. Lie on your back with the foam roller placed underneath your upper back and cross your arms across your chest. Lift your body up into a low bridge position and start rolling.

  • Lower Back

This same exercise can be done as with the upper back exercise, but the foam roller is to be positioned on the lower back. This can be helpful to those that work jobs sitting all day and have a tight lower back. 

  • Neck Roll

Many people tend to neglect stretching the neck, but a misaligned neck can bring about many different problems, even positional vertigo if not stretched out well. This roll is done by placing the neck on the roller and stretching the head from side to side to relieve tension where necessary.


So, what really is the foam roller the best for? 

Like with many things, foam rolling is not a one-size fits all situation. Depending on what you need and want to target, foam rolling is a fun, easy technique to soothe muscles or wake them up. If you are new to this, you might want to get familiarized first and take caution. Take it easy on yourself on your first try. Also keep in mind that pain does not necessarily mean the exercise is working, only do it to an extent you feel is comfortable. If the pain gets to be too much, do not continue. 

Probably the best thing to remember is that consistency is key, and developing a near-daily routine to relieve yourself of pain is your best bet. Remember that working out is fun but not when you pull or strain a muscle, which is why stretching them out and making sure they are functioning like they’re supposed to is a must for every physically active person out there, be it a professional athlete or just the average person.

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