Get The Most Out Of Your Foam Roller

Use your foam roller with these 12 self-massage moves for faster recovery and all-round flexibility that will make you ride quicker.

By Selene Yeager |

Just like a bike chain can get gunky over time, your cycling muscles can too, causing tightness and soreness when you go to hit your pedal stroke. This leads to limited range of motion and can even cut into your power. Enter the foam roller – instrument of torture if abused, but invaluable training aid if used wisely.

Though it can’t replace a skilled set of therapeutic hands during a massage, a foam roller can help warm, stretch, and provide myofascial release—breaking adhesions and scar tissue within the muscle and fascia that covers it—to prevent and relieve muscle soreness, says Scott Levin, M.D., a sports medicine specialist. “Foam rolling is a convenient and effective way to home in on trouble spots and work through them at your comfort level,” he says.

When you know how to use a foam roller properly, you’re not only providing your body with an easy form of self-massage to soothe achy muscles, you’re also improving circulation, speeding up recovery, and feeling better overall for your next workout.

To help you figure out exactly how to use a foam roller, and how to tailor it to the key muscles you use in your rides, we have the best moves for you. This foam roller routine hits all your key pedalling and supporting cycling muscles—including the quads, inner thighs, and back, which many riders ignore. (Don’t be surprised if each spot is more tender than you expect.) Each move is demonstrated by Charlee Atkins, certified trainer and creator of Le Sweat, so you can learn the form and unique modifications.

How to use this list: Roll each body part over the foam roller five to 10 times. If a spot feels extra tender, try this: Start below the area, work up to it, and gently hold for a few seconds. Shift the weight side-to-side and front-to-back then roll through it until it feels better. Use a gentle touch throughout.

These moves should offer a “good” discomfort, not an agonising grimace-and-smash session. And you should never be bruised afterward.

12 Foam Roller Must-Dos

1. Calf (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)

how to use a foam roller, calvesStart seated with right ankle crossed over left and the foam roller underneath left ankle. Lift hips to roll up and down the calf slowly four times, then rotate left leg to the left and right twice with the roller below the middle of your calf. Repeat on the right leg.

2. Shin (Tibialis Anterior)

how to use a foam roller, shinsStart on all fours, wrists below shoulders, knees below hips with the roller placed below the left knee. Roll up and down left shin four times, then pivot hips to the right and left twice. Repeat on the right leg.

3. Thigh (Quadriceps)

how to use a foam roller, quadsStart in a forearm plank with roller placed across the left thigh, just above the knee. Roll up and down quads four times, then stop midway and bend left knee twice. Repeat on the right leg.

4. Inner Thigh (Adductors)

how to use a foam roller, inner thighsFrom a forearm plank position, rotate left leg out externally and place roller perpendicular to thigh just below hip crease. Shift weight to roll back and forth on the inner thigh four times, then draw left knee toward left shoulder twice. Repeat on the right leg.

5. IT Band (Iliotibial Band)

how to use a foam roller, IT bandLie on left side with roller placed along the outer left thigh. Cross right leg over left and support upper body on left forearm. Roll four times up and down on the outer part of the thigh between the hip and knee, then bend left knee twice. Repeat on the right leg.

6. Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris)

how to use a foam roller, hamstringsWhile seated, position the foam roller just under the left glute and roll up and down over the upper portion of the hamstring four times. Then, with the roller just below glute, shift left to right twice for cross friction. Repeat on the right leg.

7. Deep Hip (Piriformis)

how to use a foam roller, piriformisSit on the foam roller with weight shifted to the left. Roll the left glute to just under the hip bone four times, then draw left knee to chest and extend two times. Repeat on the right hip.

8. Outer Hip (Tensor Fasciae Latae)

how to use a foam roller, TFLLie on left side with the foam roller under left hip, feet splayed, and right hand on hip. Shift weight back and forth an inch or two four times. Repeat on the right hip.

9. Lower Back (Thoracolumbar Fascia)

how to use a foam roller, lower backLie face up, knees bent, feet flat on floor with the foam roller under lower back. Slowly drop knees to the left, pause, then drop knees to the right side. Repeat twice more on each side.

10. Upper and Middle Back (Thoracic Spine)

how to use a foam roller, thoracic spineLie face up with knees bent and position the foam roller under the middle of back. Place hands behind head and roll between mid-back to the top of shoulder blades four times, then pause and pivot, dropping elbow toward hip twice on each side.

11. Outer Upper Back (Latissimus Dorsi)

how to use a foam roller, latsLie on right side with right arm extended out straight, thumb pointing up, and place the foam roller below right underarm. Roll to the bottom of the lat (just above natural waist) and back up four times, then rotate right palm up and sweep right arm forward and back. Repeat on the left side.

12. Back of Arm (Triceps)

how to use a foam roller, tricepsLie facedown and position the roller along the backside of right arm just above the elbow. Roll over the triceps four times, then pause and bend right arm twice. Repeat on the left arm.

READ MORE ON: exercises flexibility foam rollers pilates Recovery

Copyright © 2024 Hearst