How to use a foam roller: 5 best moves to release aching muscles

Wondering what you’re meant to do with that foam funnel thing? Try our five best foam roller exercises

How to use a foam roller
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If you find your muscles aching after that full-body home workout you did a day or two ago, then we prescribe trying some foam roller exercises. Why, we hear you ask? One word: recovery.

If you’re doing any physical activity, you need to factor in this simple - but often painful - activity. Foam rolling areas of our body releases pressure and breaks down knots in our muscles, connective tissue and fascia, explains Dave Jordan, personal trainer and co-founder of London gym The Fitting Rooms

‘As a result it can reduce the risk of injury, increase flexibility, improve circulation and performance, and reduce muscle soreness,' he says, adding: 'Once you’ve got over the initial pain it’s addictive.’ No, really! 

So how do we know when a foam-rolling sesh is needed? ‘Once you start applying your weight to the roller, the areas of tension will show themselves by being painful – these are the spots you need to spend the most time on,’ says Dave. 

Ready to roll? Below Dave explains how to use a foam roller to target five key areas - so grab your best foam roller and get rolling!

1. Upper back foam roller exercise

Foam roller exercises

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Helps to ease tension out of the majority of the muscles in the upper back but, more importantly, helps us to reverse the process of sitting in a forward-hunched position all day at our desk. Roll for 2-3 minutes a side.

2. Front of the quads (thigh) foam roller exercise

Foam roller exercises

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Lie face down and apply pressure to the front of your thigh – this releases muscles in your quadriceps, particularly the rectus femoris. When tight, these muscles can lead to pain in the patella tendon (basically, pain in your knee), which, with a little foam- rolling work, can be eased off. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.

3. Outside of the quads (thigh) foam roller exercise

Foam roller exercises

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The outside of the thigh can get very tight from weight training, but more commonly through repetitive running or jumping. This leads to an imbalance in the muscles leading into the knee which pulls your patella (kneecap) out of alignment. This can lead to severe knee pain. Roll for 3-4 minutes per side.

4. Hamstrings (back of the thigh) foam roller exercise

Foam roller exercises

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Most of us suffer from tension in our hamstrings and foam rolling can help restore function and help with flexibility. It can be difficult to get enough pressure on, so cross one leg/ankle over the other to apply more of your body weight. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.

5. Calves foam roller exercise

Foam roller exercises

(Image credit: Future)

Ankle mobility affects sporting performance and the depth of your squat and can contribute to Achilles tendon pain. Rolling calves will improve all of the above. Calves respond better with the added pressure of the opposing leg crossed over the top. Roll for 5-10 minutes per side.