The following routine, designed by Michelle F. Schwahn, a physical therapist and personal trainer based in Minnesota, relieves muscle tension and pain in just 10 minutes with these simple foam roller exercises. Tack it on to the end of any workout and you’ll start to feel looser right away. Bonus: Because you contract muscles when you hold each position, you’ll also strengthen each area as you stretch. Now, that’s a reason to get rolling!
What you’ll need: A carpeted space and a foam roller (either 6- by 18-inch or 6- by 36-inch is fine). If you need more help picking out the right roller, read up on these 5 different types of foam rollers (and when to use each one).
Frequency: Do the moves at least 3 times a week to reduce stiffness and tone muscles.
How to do it: Begin each move by lying with a part of your body on top of the foam cylinder, then roll slowly in both directions until you find a tender spot. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, or until you feel the muscle relax, then continue down the length of the muscle until you find another knot; repeat 3 to 5 times.
Make it easier: Do the moves on your bed for less-intense pressure.
1. Lateral quad massage
Great for: quad tightness, knee pain
How to do it: Place the foam roller on the ground perpendicular to your body, then lay the right side of your thigh on top of it. Keep the right leg straight with your left foot close-to-flat on the floor. Your left hand or forearm will be on the ground to give you extra support and leverage. Next: Rotate your body slightly towards the floor to target the outside muscle of the quad then slowly roll back and forth to massage. Switch to the other leg.
2. Adductor massage
Great for: groin tightness, knee pain
How to do it: Lie with your stomach on the ground with the foam roller parallel besides you. Lift your torso up through your hands. Keep your right leg straight behind you and bend your right leg to about 90 degrees. Lift your right leg and place it on top of the foam roller. Shift your weight back and forth as the foam roller massages the length of your groin. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Hamstring roll out foam roller exercises
Great for: hamstring tightness, knee and back pain
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Grab your foam roller and place it underneath your thighs. Place your hands behind you for support. Bend your left knee so that your left foot is flat on the floor. Begin shifting your body forward and back as you move the foam roller from the lower part of your butt to just above the knee. (Never foam roll behind the knee as to avoid irritating the joint.) For a deeper massage you can cross the left leg over the right. Make sure to give the left leg some love after your done loosening up the right.
4. Lat smash