How to Properly Use a Foam Roller

Learn how to use a foam roller to massage different muscles with these Pro Tips.

July 24, 2019

There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction after a long workout.

However, just as important as your workout is the recovery process. Massaging your muscles is important, and using a foam roller can help make your muscles more pliable, says Drew Walsh, a corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist.

Walsh notes how foam rollers can help increase flexibility and joint mobility.

“The foam roller is a myofascial release tool that acts as a self-massage for our muscles,” he says. “This is important to use over any overactive or tight muscle.”

There are a few different muscles you can use foam rollers on, with different techniques for each. Using proper technique when massaging your muscles is important to reap the benefits of a comforting massage.

Ready to learn how to foam roll your calves, quads and lats? Follow these Pro Tips to discover the proper techniques used to massage these muscles.


Begin by sitting on the floor, with your feet flat on the ground and legs bent at the knees. Grab the foam roller and place it underneath your calves.

After positioning the foam roller:

  • Straighten your legs with your calves on top of the foam roller. Your feet should now be off the ground and in the air, with your toes pointed up.
  • Pick your hips up, using the muscles in your core. Only your hands should touch the floor to help keep stability.
  • Begin rolling up toward your knees, using your arms to help propel you forward. Remember: You should be rolling your body back and forth, and not just the foam roller itself.
  • When you get close to your knees, roll back down toward your ankles.
  • Complete 10 repetitions.

Walsh says it’s important to stay over the musculature of the calves to obtain full effect. To increase pressure on a particular spot of your calf, put one leg over the other and follow the steps again.

“This will heighten the pressure, and this is a progression to having two legs on the foam roller,” Walsh says.


Begin by kneeling on the ground with both knees touching the floor. Your body should be in a tall-kneel position. This requires straightening your back and avoiding any slouching. Grab the foam roller and place it on the ground, slightly in front of your knees.

Once you have the foam roller in front of you:

  • Lean your body over the foam roller and place your hands on the floor with your palms facing down. Then, once you’re comfortable, drop your forearms and place them on the ground.
  • Set the foam roller halfway between your hips and knees. You can have your toes on the ground for balance until you find a comfortable position.
  • Begin foam rolling by pushing with your forearms. You want the foam roller to come down close to your knees, but not exactly touching them. At this moment, your feet should be off the ground, with your toes facing down toward the floor.
  • Once you get close to your knees, foam roll back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 10 repetitions.

Once again, you can increase the pressure by putting one leg over the other.

“We’re trying to make sure we get the whole surface area of the quadriceps muscle,” Walsh says.


Begin by lying down on your side, positioning your body in a straight line. Your form on the ground will be similar to a side plank. If lying with your left forearm on the ground, your right arm should rest against your waist and hips in a straight line. Meanwhile, your right leg should be on top of your left, which should touch the ground.

Once you’re in position:

  • Grab the foam roller and place it underneath the side of your chest. Walsh suggests placing the foam roller about four finger lengths underneath your underarm. “This should put us in a good position to decipher the lat,” he says.
  • Position your forearm overhead, in contact with the floor. At this point, the side of your lat should be in contact with the foam roller.
  • To massage the lat, you’re going to pivot forward and backward. From your torso down, your body should not be moving.
  • Complete 10 repetitions and repeat with the other side.

“We should feel a little trigger point or sensation and we want to make sure that we’re on the musculature at the ribcage,” Walsh says.

It’s important to maintain good technique and posture while using a foam roller. Foam rolling after a hard workout can help improve flexibility and ensure full range of motion throughout your joints, according to Walsh.

“Utilizing the foam roller prior to stretching will help elicit the most benefit, long-term, for muscle tissue health,” Walsh says.

Now that you know how to use a foam roller, learn about two exercises you can do with a physio ball to help improve your next workout.