6 Ways a Foam Roller Is About to Change Your Life

by Maggie Puniewska

The phrase "roll out" used to only refer to the lyrics of a particular Ludacris song. Now the popular rap verse has trickled into the fitness universe, where it most accurately describes the process of moving your body on along a Styrofoam tube. Though it can look at little silly at first, foam rolling has stellar body perks. "It increases flexibility and blood flow to muscles, so it's an excellent way to warm up and prevent injury before working out," says Monica Vazquez, a New York City-based personal trainer. And research has found that it's beneficial post-workout too: A study in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that foam rolling reduces muscle soreness after working out, helping speed up recovery. Plus, it can even help relieve achy legs and feet after hours of hiking in heels. Can we get a Hallelujah?

For the best ways to roll out — listening to Ludacris while rolling is optional — check out Vazquez's six favorite moves. She suggests going over each part for one to two minutes or even longer if you're feeling really tender. Do this routine before or after working out or anytime your body just needs a good (and free!) massage.

1. I.T. BAND

Place the foam roller under the legs just below the hip. Keep the legs straight and slowly roll your body so that the foam roller moves towards the knee. Stop before you actually hit your knee and roll back and forth in this motion. "This is a fantastic move for runners or anyone who has knees that buckle and will also help with the alignment of your hips and knees," says Vazquez.


Sit on the foam roller with the roller perpendicular to your legs. Bend the knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Then, cross the right leg over the left so that the right ankle is placed over the left knee. Lean to the right so that your right hip is supported by the foam roller. You may need to roll front and back or side to side to find a tender spot. "This move is great for people with tight hips and for those who sit for long periods of time," says Vazquez. AKA: Relief after a long day at the office that doesn't come in the form of a box of wine.


Sit on the floor with legs out in front of you. Place the foam roller under one ankle and then use your arm strength to lift your body up and roll forward so that the roller moves up the calf towards the knee. You may find that if you rotate the foot to either side, you'll feel more intense tenderness (this is good, you're rolling out the knots!) Foam rolling the calves is particularly helpful for the ladies who just can't ditch platforms, since wearing high heels can shorten calf muscles over time. This move gives them a good massage, says Vazquez.


Lie on the floor on your right side with the right arm extended up by right ear. Place the foam roller perpendicular to the arm just under the armpit. Roll your body so that the roller moves down your side, with your torso tilted slightly up so that the chest is almost facing the ceiling. Your tight back muscles will thank you.


After you complete #4, flip over so that you are face down on the floor. Put the roller in the front of your underarm with the roller perpendicular to the arm again. Roll body weight so that the roller moves down the pec. "Women should take care not to damage breast tissue but to focus on the muscular areas closer to the underarm," Vazquez suggests.


You don't need a foam roller for this one, but the same principle applies: Use a full, frozen water bottle to relieve aching arches. Place it under one foot and roll, so that the bottle goes from front of the heel to just behind the toes. "It's a great trick for people who are on their feet the whole day or anyone with plantar faciitis," Vazquez says.

Image: Luna Marina/Fotolia