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

Release tight hips, hamstrings and back muscles with this guided, 10-Minute Recovery Day Foam Roller Stretching Routine! These are the 8 BEST foam roller exercises for releasing muscle soreness, increasing range of motion and flexibility, and reducing risk of injury!

If you do my 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 Fitness Challenges. 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 exercises every morning, and it’s increased my range of motion, decreased soreness, and aided in muscle recovery!

Don’t have a foam roller? This is the basic foam roller I have from Amazon ($16). You can also use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball for most of these exercises too.

Foam Roller Exercises for Glutes and hips

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 my physical therapists and personal trainers. 

A form of stretching to release 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.

Benefits of Foam Rolling:

  • Improves range of motion
  • Decreases post-exercise soreness (foam rolling after a workout significantly decreases soreness up to 72 hours later according to the Journal of Athletic Training).
  • Alleviates tightness or trigger points (muscle knots)
  • Increases blood flow and flexibility
  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Aids in muscle recovery (reduces inflammation that occurs during the muscle repair process)
  • Increases flexibility, without hampering muscle strength (Journal of Sports Rehabilitation).

Foam rolling is for everyone, whether you maintain a rigorous fitness routine or sits at a desk all day.

Should I Foam Roll Before or After a Workout?

Both! But they serve two different purposes:

  1. 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 idea for warming up for a workout.
  2. 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, increase mobility and range of motion and prevent injury!

8 BEST Foam Roller Exercises

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 decrease muscle tension and speed up muscle recovery.

Equipment:

A foam roller. 

This is the basic foam roller I’m using from Amazon. If you’re more advanced in SMR, you can use a trigger point foam roller or lacrosse massage balls.

Instructions:

Follow along with the guided foam roller stretches video at the top of this post.  I’ll demonstrate each foam rolling exercise. Spending around 1-minute on each exercise.

Note: hold tender points or trigger points for 30 seconds. Every body is different, and everyone will have different trigger points that are “stickier” or tighter than others.

8 Best Foam Roller Exercises

  1. Chest Opener
  2. Upper Back Roll
  3. Hips and Hip Flexor Roll or Groin Roll
  4. Quadriceps Roll
  5. Glute and Piriformis Roll
  6. Hamstring Roll
  7. Calf Roll
  8. Child’s Pose with Arm Extension or Thoracic Spine Extension on Foam Roller

1. Chest Opener

If you spend your day hunched over a computer (or baby), this chest opening stretch is going to feel amazing! Try this chest opening stretch at the beginning and end of the day.

Trainer Tip: I have a shorter foam roller, so I also use a yoga block to support my head and neck (make sure your head and neck are supported)

Chest opener stretch

How to do a Chest Opener on a Foam Roller:

  1. Lay on top of the vertical foam roller, positioning it 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, and as you exhale, open your arms towards your sides. Letting your arms fall open to open the chest.
  3. Option to “goal post” your arms (90 degree bend at the elbows) to intensify this chest opening stretch even more.

2. Upper Back Roll

A lot of people tend to carry their stress in the upper back and shoulder area and this is a great way to work out knots, kinks or tightness in your upper back and shoulders.

upper back roll on foam roller

How to do an Upper Back Roll on a Foam Roller:

  1. Sit on the floor with the foam roller placed on the upper back (around the bottom of your sports bra), resting hands across your chest or behind your head.
  2. With both heels on the ground and glutes slightly lifted off the mat, bend your knees to move the roller 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.
  4. Then return to the starting position and repeat.

3. Hips + Hip Flexor Roll or Groin Roll 

This is personally where I spend the most time! I have really tight hips and hip flexors, so I’ll spend a few breaths slowly shifting back and forth to open the hips.

hip release on foam roller

How to Stretch Your Groin + 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 roll as tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the muscles of the inner thigh, roll over the area between your hip and knee.
  4. Repeat on the left leg.

4. Quadriceps Roll

The quads are involved in almost every workout we film. In fact many people (especially runners) 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 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 your upper thigh.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roll as tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the muscles of the thigh, roll over the area between your hip and knee.
  4. Repeat on the left leg.

5. Glute and Piriformis Roll

The glutes are the largest muscle in the body — and deserve some love on your foam roller! The piriformis is a deep, small muscle located between your glutes and hip joints and it helps the hips rotate.

If you want better squats, improved hip mobility and range of motion, foam roll your glutes.

Trainer Tip: 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 left hip. Support your weight in your hands on the floor as needed.
  2. Shift as much weight onto the foam roll as tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the glute muscles, continue leaning into the left hip as your slowly roll over left glute and butt muscle.
  4. Repeat on the right glute, hip.

6. Hamstring Roll

Another stretch that’s great for anyone who spends their day sitting down. This stretch lengthens and releases tense muscle along the back of our legs which improves hip mobility and decreases stress on the low back.

Trainer Tip: 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 roll as tolerable.
  3. While trying to relax the hamstring muscles, roll up and down from knee to right glute (butt cheek).
  4. Repeat on the left hamstring.

7. Calf Roll

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 your right calf 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 roll as 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.
  4. Repeat on the left calf.

8. Child’s Pose with Overhead Arm Extension on Foam Roller (Thoracic Spine Extension Foam Roller Exercise)

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

I love this stretch for opening 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).

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. With the 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. Maintaining 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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4 comments
  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”.