Foam Roller Exercises for Specific Groups of Muscles

A foam roller is a very simple looking object and that leads many people to believe it will lack versatility and be quite limited in what it can do.


How wrong can they be? It may be very basic in appearance but the humble foam roller is capable of going to work to sort out issues with tightness and soreness in many groups of muscles in the body.


There is also a misconception that a foam roller requires little effort to use and the exact same method of operation is used on every area of the body - once again, this is just not the case. It requires controlled strength and balance to use a foam roller effectively and subtle changes in positioning and operation are needed for different groups of muscles.

Muscle Massage

Let's take a look at some beneficial exercises you can do with a foam roller at home or during a visit to your local health club or gym.


We'll break things down into groups of muscles which a foam roller can go to work on when they become stiff or aching, and need some gently relief.




  •  Place the roller under your left side, with your left buttock cheek on top of the foam roller.
  •  Now lift your left leg up and back, crossing it over your right knee.
  •  You should place your hands behind your body on the floor for balance.
  •  Lean slightly to the left until you feel a tightness in your right hip.
  •  You should initially hold this position for around 30 seconds, working your way up to two minutes over a few weeks.
  •  Repeat these actions with your right side against the roller.


GLUTES (better known as your buttocks or posterior)


  •  Position the foam roller so that it will cross your posterior.
  •  Next sit upright on the roller with the soft part of your buttocks on top of it.
  •  Now move slowly forward and back, and then from side to side.
  •  Take note of which areas feel particularly tight and concentrate on moving those areas over the roller.


HAMSTRINGS (back of thighs)


  •  Position your body in the same way as you did for your Glutes, but stretch your legs outwards.
  •  Next place your hands on the floor behind you for balance.
  •  Roll your body back so that the top backside of your leg is against the roller.
  •  Now move slowly forward and back and then from side to side.

You should do the above slowly and in a controlled way and if you feel any tight spots, spend a bit more time trying to work out these knots.


  •  Now you should change position to press the roller all over the entire muscle.
  •  Move the roller to your buttock, and roll slowly down from the buttock to the knee.
  •  Pause on any tight spots, once again holding the pressure.
  •  Carry out the above steps one leg at a time.

Once you have done this for a few minutes you can swap over legs. Once you are familiar with this exercise you can try both legs at the same time. This will require a bit more balance though and may take a bit of time to get used to.


  •  Now try the above steps with your feet turned out, and then with your feet turned in.
  •  Also try the above steps with one leg straight and one leg bent.


QUADRICEPS (front of thigh)


Your quads are located on the opposite side of your legs to your hamstring.
In order to work out this muscle group with your roller you will need to get yourself into a push-up position, with the foam roller perpendicular to your quads.

  •  Now you should lie face down with your thighs over the roller.
  • In a similar way to how you worked out your hamstrings, slowly move the roller backwards and forwards.
  •  Use your hands for balance while rolling the thigh from knee to hip, and back.
  •  Now try it with both legs on the roller, and then one leg, and then just the other one.
  •  To reduce pressure, support some of your body weight with one leg while working the other.

If your muscles are very tight, it may feel a bit painful initially but you can control the amount of pressure you exert by pushing with your arms.




 The Ilio-Tibial band is a thick band of tissue running along the outside of your leg. It starts at your hip and goes along your outer thigh, attaching to the outside edge of your tibia (shin bone) below the knee. This strong band of muscle and fibre works with the thigh muscles to stabilise your knee joint.

  •  First you should lie on the roller on your left side, with the device just below your hip.
  •  Now, using your hands for balance, roll the side of your leg from hip to knee, and back several times, pausing for any tight spots.
  •  Repeat the procedure while lying on your right side.




  •  Place the roller crossways under the mid-point of both of your calves.
  •  Using your hands for support and balance, start to roll slowly up to the knee and down to the ankle, pausing on any tight spots.
  •  Now try the same procedure with your feet turned in, and then with your feet turned out.
  •  Then try it with your toes pointed up, and then with your toes flexed.
  •  Place one leg on top of the other to increase pressure.




  •  Place the foam roller crossways under your shoulder blades.
  •  Next put your hands behind your head, keeping your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  •  Using your feet, roll toward your head, pausing at sore spots.
  •  Roll down your back to the middle and back up your back.

If you suffer from back pain or have an existing medical condition relating to your back, such as herniated discs or sciatica, you should definitely seek advice from your doctor before even thinking about using a foam roller. There is a solid body of opinion that says you should avoid using a foam roller near or on your spinal column or on your lower back (lumbar spine). So don't use the roller anywhere your lower back area. A roller should only be used on muscles to the sides of the spine on your upper back where your shoulder blades and muscles provide protection for the spine.




  •  Lie on your side with the foam roller crossways under your armpit, and your arms outstretched over your head.
  •  Roll towards your armpit, pausing at sore or tight spots, and then roll back.

 This may sound very simple but it can take some time to find the muscle groups in this area that need work.




  • For this exercise, you’ll be improving your balance as well as your triceps.
  • First off, sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you. Your hands should be stretch out at your back, helping you maintain balance.
  • With your hands on the foam roller, tighten your core, extend your arms and lift yourself off the floor.
  • Make sure that your shoulders don’t contract, keeping them straight and in line with your hands.
  • For the upper part of your arms, try doing push ups while holding on to the foam roller.




This is something a bit different which involves using two half rollers. These have the appearance of a standard roller which has been divided along its length. A half roller has one flat surface and one rounded one.

  • To carry out some squats place both half rollers about two feet apart on the floor, with the rounded side facing up.
  • Now place your feet on the rollers and slowly bend down for a squat.
  • Make sure that your back is straight and your hips are in line with the knees while the arms are stretched forward. - This movement let’s you get both balance while strengthening your legs.
  • To take it up a notch, flip the half rollers so that the rounded edge is on the floor.

As you can see it's possible to use a foam roller on many areas of your body. These are just a few of the many types of exercises you can carry out to loosen and elongate tight muscles.


Choosing to invest in a foam roller really is a great alternative to paying for a professional massage or visiting a physical therapist to help you sort out muscle knots. Check out or tips on choosing a foam roller and read about the various foam roller types.