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8 Best Foam Roller Exercises (Recovery Day Foam Roller Stretches)

Release tight hips, hamstrings and back muscles with these 8 foam roller exercises. This guided, 10-Minute Recovery Day Foam Roller Stretching Routine will release sore muscles, increase range of motion and flexibility, and reduce risk of injury.

If you do my at home-workouts, you are training like an athlete. That means you need to be recovering like an athlete too. 

Whether you’re new to fitness, or you’ve been a dedicated fitness enthusiast for quite some time, foam rolling to relieve muscle tension should be a staple in your fitness routine.

Recovery days are built into all of our free home workout plans. And I highly suggest trying these recovery day foam rolling exercises after your next workout to reduce soreness.

According to research published in The Journal of Athletic Training, foam rolling after a workout significantly decreases soreness up to 72 hours after a workout.

I’ve started doing these 8 foam roller stretches every morning, and it’s increased my range of motion, decreased soreness, and aided in muscle recovery!

Foam Roller Exercises for Glutes and hips

Foam Roller Exercises FAQs

What Is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling, or using a hard foam tube to roll out your muscles, is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR). In other words, it’s a self-massage technique commonly used by physical therapists and personal trainers. This form of stretching releases tension, sore muscles and knotted muscles in ways that traditional (or passive) stretching cannot. Foam rolling or SMR uses pressure to increase blood flow to tight muscle groups and relieve pain.

What Are The Benefits Of Foam Rolling?

Foam rollers have many benefits such as: it improves range of motion, decreases post-exercise soreness, alleviates tightness or trigger points, increases blood flow and flexibility, aids in injury prevention, aids in muscle recovery (reduces inflammation that occurs during the muscle repair process), and increases flexibility without hampering muscle strength (Journal of Sports Rehabilitation). Foam rolling is for everyone, whether you maintain a rigorous fitness routine or sit at a desk all day.

Should I Foam Roll Before Or After A Workout?

Both are great options that serve different purposes. If you’re foam rolling before a workout, hold each foam roller exercise for around 30 seconds. This will increase blood flow to that muscle group (which is ideal for warming up for a workout). If you’re foam rolling after a workout, hold each foam roller exercise for around 60-90 seconds (or longer if you’d like). This will send a signal to your Golgi Tendon Organs which forces your muscles to go into a deep relaxing state. I also highly suggest foam rolling on recovery days (when you have no workout scheduled) to decrease muscle soreness and increase mobility.

Foam Roller Exercises for Back

The 8 Best Foam Roller Exercises

Ready to roll?! Try these eight foam roller exercises — it only takes about 10 to 12 minutes to complete this foam rolling routine.

Use these foam roller exercises in your warm up to increase blood flow, range of motion, flexibility and reduce the risk of injury during your workout.

Or use this foam rolling routine in your cool down to release tension, relieve tight muscles and speed up muscle recovery.

Workout Equipment:

A foam roller. 

If you’re more advanced in SMR, you can use a trigger point foam roller or lacrosse massage ball.

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This is the basic foam roller I’m using from Amazon.
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Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Foam Roller Stretches on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 8 Foam Roller Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (Hold each stretch for about 60 seconds. Note: hold any tender spot or trigger point for 30 seconds.)
  • Perform All 8 Exercises x1 Set

Workout Outline

  1. Chest Opener
  2. Upper Back Roll
  3. Groin/Hip Roll
  4. Quadriceps Roll
  5. Glute/Piriformis Roll
  6. Hamstring Roll
  7. Calf Roll
  8. Child’s Pose

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Foam Roller Exercises

8 Best Foam Roller Exercises

Chest Opener

Targets: Upper body (specifically the chest muscles).

If you spend your day hunched over a computer (or baby), this chest opening stretch is going to feel amazing. I have a shorter foam roller, so I also use a yoga block to support my head and neck.

Chest opener stretch

How To Do A Chest Opener On A Foam Roller

  1. Lay on top of the foam roller vertically. Have the roller positioned between your shoulder blades (in the middle of your back). If your foam roller is not long enough, add a yoga block to make sure your neck and head are also supported.
  2. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, open your arms towards your sides, letting your arms fall open to open the chest.
  3. Hold this pose, arms extended out to the sides. Option to “goal post” your arms (90-degree bend at the elbows) to intensify this chest opening stretch.

Upper Back Roll

Targets: Upper back and shoulders.

A lot of people tend to carry their stress here, so this is a great way to work out muscle knots, kinks or tightness.

upper back roll on foam roller

How To Do An Upper Back Roll On A Foam Roller

  1. Sit on the floor and place the foam roller horizontally under the upper back (around the bottom of your sports bra), resting hands across your chest or behind your head.
  2. With feet flat on the ground and glutes slightly lifted off the mat, bend your knees to roll slowly up your back, towards your shoulders.
  3. Then exhale, contracting your abs as you lift your neck and shoulders slightly up to roll the foam roller back down to the mid-back. Think of doing a half-crunch as the roller goes down the back.

Hips And Hip Flexor Roll Or Groin Roll 

Targets: Hips and hip flexors.

This is personally where I spend the most time — I’ll spend a few breaths and slowly roll back and forth to open the hips.

hip release on foam roller

How To Stretch Your Groin And Hips On A Foam Roller

  1. Lie face down with your right leg on top of the foam roller so it’s against your upper inner thigh.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roller as is tolerable, left and right forearm on the mat.
  3. While trying to relax the muscles of the inner thigh, roll over the area at your hips.

Quadriceps Roll

Targets: Mainly the quads (which are involved in almost every workout we film. In fact, many people tend to be quad-dominant).

There are four quadriceps muscles and they all attach to the knee cap. Foam rolling the quads can improve the flexibility of the knee (and decrease knee pain) and improve hip mobility. Option to roll both quads at the same time, or roll one at a time (I prefer one at a time to really isolate the muscles).

quadriceps roll for sore muscles

How To Do A Quadriceps Roll On A Foam Roller

  1. Lie face down with your right leg on top of the foam roller so it’s against Lie face down with your right leg straight behind you and on top of the foam roller (so it’s against your upper thigh).
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roller as is tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the muscles of the thigh, roll over the area between your hip and knee.

Glute and Piriformis Roll

Targets: The glutes (the largest muscle in the body) and the piriformis (a deep, small muscle located between your glutes and hip joints).

If you want better squats (improved hip mobility and range of motion), foam roll your glutes. After a heavy leg day, do this glute and piriformis roll to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.

foam rolling glutes and Piriformis Roll

How To Foam Roll The Glutes And Piriformis

  1. Sit on the foam roller with your left glute/hip, crossing your right leg over your left knee and leaning toward the left hip. Support your weight in your hands on the floor as needed.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roller as is tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the glute muscles, continue leaning into the left hip as your slowly roll over the left glute and butt muscle.

Hamstring Roll

Targets: The hamstrings — this stretch is great for anyone who spends their day sitting down as it lengthens and releases tense muscle along the back of our legs. This improves hip mobility and decreases stress on the low back.

If deadlifts are part of your leg workout, decrease post-exercise soreness with this hamstring stretch.

hamstring roll to relieve tight hamstring muscles

How To Do A Hamstring Stretch With A Foam Roller

  1. Sit on the foam roller with your right leg/hamstring on the foam roller. Left knee should be bent at 90 degrees on the ground to support you. Also hands should be on the ground behind you to support you.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roller as is tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the hamstring muscles, roll up and down from knee to right glute (butt cheek).

Calf Roll

Targets: The calf muscle.

If you’re a runner or do workouts with jumping, this calf stretch will feel so good and increase ankle mobility.

calf roll stretch

How To Foam Roll Your Calf Muscles

  1. Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath your right calf. Left knee should be bent at 90 degrees on the ground to support you. Also hands should be on the ground behind you to support you.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roller as is tolerable. If you need more leverage you can cross your left leg on top of your right shin.
  3. While trying to relax the calf muscles, roll up and down from knees to ankles.

Child’s Pose With Overhead Arm Extension On Foam Roller (Thoracic Spine Extension Foam Roller Exercise)

Targets: The hips and all the muscles along the back of the body (posterior chain). Plus, you get amazing extension creating length from your tailbone to your fingertips (or thoracic spine).

This is my personal favorite foam roller stretch on the list and how I like to start and end every day.

childs pose stretch with arm extension or Thoracic Spine Extension Stretch with foam roller

How To Do Thoracic Spine Extension On A Foam Roller

  1. Start in child’s pose position; big toes to touch, hips open, pushing hips back towards your heels. Place your hands on the foam roller, thumbs up towards the ceiling.
  2. Roll the arms forward, extending your arms as far away from your hips as possible and allowing your head to fall between your arms. Maintain a neutral lower back.
  3. Hold the extension for 5-10 seconds, continuing to reach your fingertips away from your body.
  4. Then roll hands back towards the body and repeat extension roll out.

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Full Body Foam Rolling Routine | How to use a foam roller

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  1. I was so excited when I saw you publish this and just got to try it! These are definitely some moves to consider adding into the routine I’ve been doing. I really like your full-body stretch routine, but this is a calmer, slower way to get into the muscles and good for changing things up. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love your workouts! Friendly correction: its not “pirifemoris” its “piriformis”, pronounced “peer-uh-form-is”.