Foam Roller Exercises: A How-To Guide

For any fitness fanatic, foam rolling is an integral part of your everyday routine. One of the most popular forms of self-manual therapy, foam rolling can help to increase flexibility. Improve recovery and reduce muscle soreness following a workout.

While foam rollers are targeted at people who regularly exercise, Betsan de Renesse, personal trainer and founder of The Glow Method at Home says foam rolling can help people who spend long hours sitting at a desk too (i.e. all of us rn).

“Long hours sat at a desk can really affect our posture with certain muscles becoming locked long or short. For example tension builds in the stretched muscles of our upper back and compressed muscles of our chest and biceps when we spend long hours bent over a computer,” Betsan tells GLAMOUR.

“Foam rolling can not only help relieve the tension that builds in these muscles, but when combined with an effective strengthening programme it can really improve posture and the accompanying aches and pains.”

Foam rolling can also help improve circulation, reduce your risk of injury and reduce stress levels too by releasing feel-good hormones in the same way as a massage.

For people who do workout regularly, Betsan says foam rolling can help to improve your technique.

“The increased range of motion from foam rolling before exercise will help improve technique, which reduces the chance of injury and allows activation of more muscle fibers during the movement, which means a more effective workout,” Betsan explains.

“Foam rolling regularly can be as effective as a sports massage. Regular exercisers can keep their own muscles free from tension and reduce the pressure that may build up on joints over time from muscle imbalance by regular foam rolling.”

There’s no limits on who can do it, either. Betsan says its suitable for everyone from pregnant and post-natal women to bodybuilders – but what if you’re a novice and have no idea where to start? Below, Betsan outlines the muscle groups to focus on and the best foam rolling exercises to do for each.


Often forgotten about but the feet are the gateway to and foundations of your body.

Technique: Sit down placing the foam roller under your feet. Rollback and forth and side to side

When to roll: Foam roll your feet before any compound movement (squat, deadlift etc.) and even a run to help set a strong and balanced foundation.

The benefits: Foam rolling your feet will help to aid recovery after a long day on your feet, a long run or a compound movement-focused session.


Tight calves can affect the range of movement in the ankle. Footwear choices and running can have a huge impact on calf tension.

Technique: Sit on the floor with legs extended and a foam roller under your calves. Use your arms to lift your weight off the floor slightly and roll up and down the calf muscle. Put one leg on top of the other for increased pressure.

When to roll: If you’re prone to Achilles tendon problems, calf pain after running, or even injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis, you will likely benefit from regular foam rolling of your calves before or after exercise.

The benefits: Foam rolling the calves can also help increase range of movement when performing compound movements like squats and deadlifts.


Foam rolling quads before a workout can help to activate and increase blood flow to the quads pre-exercise. Most people are also quad dominant and rolling out the quads pre-workout can help restore the muscle balance before starting.

Technique: Start in a forearm plank position with the roller under your quads. Taking your weight in your upper body roll back and forth along your quads. This can also be done by standing with the roller against the wall if your upper body isn’t very strong, you’re pregnant or you just had a baby.

When to roll: After a quad-focused session such as split squats.

The benefits: Rolling after a workout can help aid recovery and before can help increase range of motion and activation.


Your glutes can become tight from poor posture and also sometimes need help with activation after long day of sitting.

Technique: Sit on the foam roller with an ankle crossed over the opposite knee. Roll around your glute muscles and feel for tight spots.

When to roll: Best done pre-exercise to increase blood flow to the glutes and also post or during to help relieve any tension build up in the lower back.

The benefits: Foam rolling glutes can help relieve a stiff lower back.

Upper Back

Often locked long and tight from working at a computer, these muscles allow twisting motion.

Technique: Lie with the foam roller under and horizontally across your shoulder blades, lift your bottom from the ground, and roll along the thoracic spine area of the upper back.

When to roll: Great to do combined with chest and bicep stretch prior to back strengthening exercises like rowing for improved posture gains and prior to any twisting exercise like a cable or band chop for increased range of movement.

The benefits: Improved posture and range of movement.


Hamstrings can get tight from sitting all day and participating in activities like running and cycling.

Technique: Sit with the foam roller under your upper thighs. Lift your bottom by taking your weight in your hands and roll down your hamstrings one leg at a time from your bottom to your knee.

When to roll: Foam roll your hamstrings pre workout to increase circulation and gently activate the muscle. Foam roll your hamstrings post workout and to aid recovery.

The benefits: Foam rolling your hamstrings can also help reduce soreness in the lower back.

Iliotibial (IT) Band

The IT band can become tight due to repetitive movements, tight muscles, and weak hip stabilisers. Regular exercisers often have tight IT bands.

Technique: Place the foam roller underneath the side of your quad muscle. Take the opposite foot and cross it over the leg you are rolling, placing the foot flat on the floor for support. Take your weight in your upper body and roll back and forth along the outer thigh from above your knee to just below your hip. You can lean your body slightly forward or back to avoid rolling directly on your IT band.

When to roll: Foam roll around your IT bands before or after running, hill walking and the stepper machine to help reduce tension and pressure on hips and knees.

The benefits: It’s best to foam roll IT bands as part of your recovery routine if you’re a regular exerciser to help manage accumulation of tension.

To find out more about Betsan and The Glow Method at Home, visit

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