Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

young man using a foam rollerOnce reserved only for elite athletes and bodybuilders, foam rollers have gotten super popular in the last several years. Have you seen them? They look like giant pool noodles—except they’re much denser (read: harder), and they’re typically used to loosen tight muscles and relieve soreness.

What foam rollers do

Foam rollers rely on gravity and your own body weight to release trigger points (painful knots) and increase blood flow. Think of it as a deep tissue massage that you can do all by yourself. To use a foam roller, you simply place it under the area to be massaged and slowly move that part of your body over the roller. It sounds simple, but foam rolling can help with a number of issues, including:

  • Post-workout recovery
  • Muscle stiffness and soreness
  • Posture
  • Chronic back pain
  • Flexibility
  • Range of motion
  • Injury prevention
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue

Exercises to try

For the back. The most common area to foam roll is the back. To do this, lie face up on the floor and place the roller under your back, perpendicular to your body. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor and cross your arms over your chest. Then, using your feet and legs, slowly push your body backward so that your back rolls over the foam roller. Repeat in the other direction, being sure to pause over especially tender areas until you feel the pain release.

For the legs. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your hands on the floor behind you. Place the roller under one leg (either the calf or the thigh) and bend the other leg at the knee, so that your foot is flat on the floor. Using your hands and the opposite foot, move your body slowly back and forth so that the leg rolls over the foam roller. For extra pressure, you can cross the “off” leg over the one you’re rolling, so that more weight is applied.

For the feet. While standing, place the arch of one foot on the foam roller. Lean your weight onto that foot and slowly roll your foot forward and backward. You can also roll both feet at once (carefully!) by holding onto something for balance and standing directly on the foam roller.

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