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.
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.
GLUTES (better known as your buttocks or posterior)
HAMSTRINGS (back of thighs)
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.
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.
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.
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.
TRAPEZIUS & RHOMBOIADS (upper 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.
LATISSIMUS DORSI & TERES MAJOR (shoulders)
This may sound very simple but it can take some time to find the muscle groups in this area that need work.
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.
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.