Improve Flexibility With Four Foam Rolling Exercises

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Foam rolling before and after training is a performance-enhancing technique similar to massage. Both reduce the tightness in fibrous tissue and muscles by applying pressure to them [read our previous post on the benefits of foam rolling].

Once tight areas are loosened up through foam rolling, muscles are able to lengthen to their full extent, allowing joints to move through their full range of motion and improving flexibility. In addition, foam rolling increases blood flow to muscles, helping to remove toxins—such as lactic acid—and reducing muscle soreness.

Below are four foam rolling exercises that focus on the quads, IT bands, glutes/piriformis and upper back muscles. If left unattended, any of these areas could cause pain, suffer injury or adversely affect your sports performance. To receive maximum benefits from foam rolling, regularly perform these exercises for at least 30 seconds before and/or after workouts, or on off-days.


  • Lie face down
  • Place foam roller under quads, balance on elbows and maintain a tight core
  • Roll slowly from knee to hip; concentrate on sensitive areas

Benefits: Improves flexibility of these often over-developed muscles; expands hip and knee mobility for improved jumping height and running technique
Variation: For greater intensity, foam roll one leg at a time

IT Band

  • Place foam roller under left hip and assume Side Plank position
  • Balance on left elbow and right leg; use leg to adjust intensity
  • Roll slowly from hip to knee; concentrate on sensitive areas
  • Perform on opposite leg

Benefit: Prevents tightness and knee pain that results from overuse of the IT Band
Variation: For maximum intensity, place feet together and off the ground


  • Sit with side of left glute on foam roller with opposite leg crossed over thigh
  • Balance on right hand and leg
  • Slowly roll back and forth over glute; concentrate on sensitive areas
  • Perform on opposite side

Benefits: Reduces pressure on the sciatic nerve to improve nervous system control of lower body muscles and eliminate low back pain
Variation: Roll side to side over sensitive areas to release fascia from multiple directions

Upper Back

  • Lie on foam roller positioned at mid back
  • Bridge hips toward ceiling and maintain a tight core
  • Roll slowly to upper back; concentrate on sensitive areas

Benefits: Relieves upper back tension and pain; improves back flexibility and shoulder mobility
Variation: Roll sides of back for additional benefit

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock