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Foam Rolling 101

I took advantage of my low-key weekend to finally work on Foam Rolling 101. I know I promised this several weeks ago so thank you for your patience. My schedule has been just a little crazy lately.

Before we launch into the how to, let’s talk about what foam rollers are, where you can get them and the benefits of foam rolling.

This is a foam roller. They are cylinder shaped pieces of foam that are pretty firm. Foam rollers can be purchased online or in most major sports retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods. I’m pretty sure that most Target stores now carry foam rollers. You can also probably find them on the fitness floor at your gym if you want to add it to your gym routine or try one out before bringing it home.

Foam rolling is basically like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. You work different areas of your body looking for tense spots so that you can break up scar tissue which will increase mobility and decrease potential for injury (and help heal current injuries). While foam rolling is beneficial for everyone,  it is something that should be part of every runner’s routine. It does wonders for the tightness that running can create in the legs…especially troublesome IT bands that cause hip and knee pain.

In the past, I primarily focused on foam rolling my lower body but recently I have discovered the benefits of foam rolling the upper body in order to achieve more openness in my yoga practice. I have especially been working on my lats in order to increase the range of motion in my shoulders.

Ideally, you should foam roll several times a week (more is better here). Spend about 30 seconds in each of the exercises outlined in the videos and increase that time for areas where you experience tightness and pain. I want to point out that foam rolling will not always feel good. First, it’s a bit of a workout to roll yourself around like that and support your body weight. Second, you will realllllyyy feel it when you hit those tight spots where scar tissue has built up. Just breathe through it and keep rolling!

Please let me know if you have any other questions! This is my first real video debut on the blog – I think it’s a great way to share knowledge. I hope you find these video tutorials beneficial. I would love your feedback.

Foam Rolling 101 for the Lower Body

Foam Rolling 101 for the Upper Body

{ 64 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Emily March 6, 2011, 10:39 pm

    Thank you so much Jen! This is SO helpful!!

  • 2
    nathalie March 6, 2011, 11:41 pm

    thank you so much; this was extremely helpful. i’m a huge fan of your blog and recently got into foam rolling when you first mentioned it. i’ve been trying to find good foam rolling tutorials on youtube, but i’m so glad you made the time to make these videos because they have been the best by far. p.s. i also love your accent! thanks again.

    • 3
      Jen March 7, 2011, 10:46 am

      Nathalie – I’m so happy to hear that you found this helpful. It’s my first video tutorial but I think it’s a great way to demonstrate how to do things and share with you guys! Thank you so much for checking them out. I’m glad you are foam rolling! 🙂

  • 4
    S @ extremebalance.net/blog March 7, 2011, 12:56 am

    Your accent is adorable! You’ve got WAY more awesome IT bands than I do. To see you just chatting away while rolling them was impressive. I can’t put all my weight on mine and I curse like a sailor while doing it. 🙂 Go, Jen! These were fun vids—you can definitely tell you have teaching experience, you weren’t awkward or unsure of what to say at all. Very nicely done!

    • 5
      Jen March 7, 2011, 10:51 am

      Thank you! I grew up in middle Georgia and I guess it shows in my accent, huh? And regarding the IT bands…I am usually howling in pain but for the purposes of this video I kind of avoided the bad spots to stay composed! 😀

      I really appreciate the positive feedback on the video! I do love “coaching” others and sharing my experience/knowledge! So fun!

  • 6
    Kelly March 7, 2011, 2:01 am

    you are SO TINY and muscular lady!

  • 7
    Becky March 7, 2011, 6:55 am

    I bought my foam roller at Target, but I love using the ones at my gym because the foam is more dense. I try to foam roll often, although I’m not always good about it. I do carry “the stick” around and use that daily. I don’t know that it’s quite as effective as the foam roller, but it’s good for quick work. Thanks for all the information!

    • 8
      Jen March 7, 2011, 10:56 am

      I’m not as good as I should be about it either, Becky but I’ve been making an effort to foam roll more lately. I agree that the stick is great for “on the go” rolling! 😀

  • 9
    branny March 7, 2011, 7:29 am

    Great tutorial!

    • 10
      Jen March 7, 2011, 10:56 am

      Thanks, Branny! So good to hear from you.

  • 11
    Kaci March 7, 2011, 8:08 am

    Thank you so much! My hubs uses this all the time and I’m just starting to use it myself, very helpful!

  • 12
    Elle Bieling March 7, 2011, 8:15 am

    I absolutely adore foam rolling. It is the only remedy for overall loosening the tension in overused areas of the body. It is better than Yoga for this reason, although Yoga is good for opening and stretching. They are both very useful for meditative bodywork as well, if you do it from a meditative approach.
    Keep the good stuff coming!

    • 13
      Jen March 7, 2011, 11:00 am

      I agree that foam rolling and yoga have different benefits but complement each other nicely!

  • 14
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad March 7, 2011, 8:27 am

    Thanks Jen! Very informative. I think I may ditch my Tiger Tail and get a foam roller instead. It seems to do a better job.

    So if I do BodyPump, will I get arms like you? 😉 Great accent too!

    • 15
      Jen March 7, 2011, 11:01 am

      Kristy – thanks for the positive feedback! I think the Tiger Tail is great for “on the go” but the foam roller is what you need for the heavy lifting, deep tissue stuff.

      Yes, BodyPump changes your body! And I grew up in middle Georgia…clearly! 😉

  • 16
    Emily Malone March 7, 2011, 9:11 am

    Your video makes me realize how much I miss seeing you on the yoga mat in the morning. 🙁 You are adorable, and I am seriously envious of your amazing muscles.

  • 17
    Rhona@RedWineRunner March 7, 2011, 10:38 am

    These videos are great! I’ve never tried foam rolling before – I think they have them at my gym so I’m going to give this a try tonight after work.
    Your accent is fantastic, and holy crap your arms are ripped!!

  • 18
    Mama Pea March 7, 2011, 12:39 pm

    This has nothing to do with foam rolling, but you are gorgeous! And I have that top 🙂

    • 19
      Jen March 7, 2011, 1:46 pm

      First, can I say that my jaw dropped when I saw your comment. Thank you SO much for checking out my blog and leaving such a nice comment.

      And I love the top…I just got it a few weeks ago and have received compliments on it every time I’ve worn it! Gotta love a little style in the yoga studio! 😉

  • 20
    Claudie March 7, 2011, 2:04 pm

    Love your videos! I got a foam roller a few weeks ago to work on my IT band, because it’s been causing me many issues recently, and it really helps to see that I’m doing the exercises right.
    (Btw, now I can also see you are indeed a great instructor! 🙂 Love how clear your directions are.)

    And seriously: what do you do to have such great arms? 🙂

    • 21
      Jen March 8, 2011, 10:32 am

      I’m glad you liked the videos, Claudie! Thanks for the comment and for the kind words about my “teaching.” 😛

      It’s amazing what foam rolling can do for the IT bands (even if it hurts while you’re doing it!).

      The arms are thanks to teaching BodyPump 2x a week for the last couple of years and a million chaturangas in yoga!

  • 22
    Danielle March 7, 2011, 3:02 pm

    You have rockin muscles girl! Love the video 🙂

  • 23
    Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) March 7, 2011, 4:22 pm

    LOVE the video!! I have to get myself a foam roller…I’ve wanted one for SO long, and now I’ll know how to use it!! 😀

    By the way, your accent is adorable and you are totally gorgeous 🙂

    • 24
      Jen March 8, 2011, 10:33 am

      Emma – with all the running you do you should definitely be foam rolling!!! You won’t even believe how many tight spots you’ll find once you start.

      And thank you so much for the sweet comment! 😛

  • 25
    Hollie March 7, 2011, 6:03 pm

    Wonderful!! Thanks so much- I will be practicing my rolling tonight. I love your tutorial- very helpful. 🙂

  • 26
    Melissa March 7, 2011, 8:56 pm

    If the effectiveness of the pool noodle I dragged up from my basement is any indication of how helpful an actual foam roller might be, then I’m on cloud nine 🙂 Seriously, I’ve had a nagging back injury since October from pregnancy and an unfortunate attempt at a yoga back bend (didn’t stretch properly) and I’ve not been able to kick it. Finally this week it’s been feeling better and then when I saw this video I ran to my basement and rolled away on the noodle. My back feels awesome. I think I’ll invest in a real one…

    Thanks for such a helpful video and for the tips.

    • 27
      Jen March 8, 2011, 11:06 am

      Melissa – I think this might be my most favorite comment! I LOVE that you improvised with a pool noodle! If that helped a little then you most definitely need to get a real foam roller. I think it will help your back so much!

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  • 28
    Winifred March 7, 2011, 8:56 pm

    Hi, Jen! Thanks for the foam roller tutorial! I recently discovered that I could use mine on my upper body and WHAT a difference it makes. Your debut video was great and I look forward to seeing more in the future. BodyPump this morning was excellent as well, my legs were speaking to me on my run this afternoon (but in the best way possible)…guess I should hop on my foam roller this evening.

    • 29
      Jen March 8, 2011, 11:09 am

      I totally agree on the upper body – I’ve always used mine on lower body until my yoga teacher showed us the upper body exercises. I’m so tight in my upper back and lats so it helps so much!

      Thanks for coming to class yesterday! I’m happy to hear you got a good workout! 😉

  • 30
    Kelly March 7, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Great video! Very informational. You sound very confident and educated, I’m sure you are going to be an excellent Yoga instructor!

    PS: I am from Middle Georgia too! Represent!

    • 31
      Jen March 8, 2011, 11:10 am

      Thanks for the positive feedback on the video, Kelly!

      I grew up in Dublin!

  • 32
    Josie March 7, 2011, 9:45 pm

    Great video, Jen – you look so fabulous! Is it bad that I didn’t even notice that you have an accent? Then again, I did grow up in McDonough 😉

    • 33
      Jen March 8, 2011, 11:11 am

      Josie – it’s funny because most people I meet (in the South) tell me that I hardly have an accent at all but I guess it depends on what you’re used to hearing!

  • 34
    JennyV March 7, 2011, 9:53 pm

    Thanks for the foam rolling 101 (parts 1 and 2!) 😉 I feel fortunate to be a runner and to NOT have had any major issues w/ soreness/pain/injury. That said — that’s no reason for me to NOT foam roll and take good care of my body now. I believe I’ll be investing in a foam roller thanks to you.

    Do you find that yoga has changed your body structure/composition? I’ve always wondered b/c I have a similar body type to yours — but I believe my quads are a bit more bulky. Yoga and pilates have been said to lengthen your muscles — is this true for you?

    • 35
      Jen March 8, 2011, 11:23 am

      Hi Jenny! I’m so happy to hear that I’ve motivated you to buy a foam roller. Even if aren’t struggling with injury, it’s a great tool for increased flexibility and injury prevention. I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to give yourself a massage! 😉

      Regarding my body composition…I have a pretty muscular build. My legs aren’t super long and I consider my quads to be pretty bulky. That said, strength training made the biggest difference in the shape of my legs, more than running ever did. I do attribute yoga for helping to lengthen out those defined muscles.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other specific questions.

  • 36
    Abby March 8, 2011, 9:22 am

    Love the videos, Jen! I read in the post you wrote after this about your southern accent and I was looking forward to hearing you talk. My partner is from Tennessee and a lot of my friends are southern. I don’t get to hear that accent much now that I live in Ontario, so that was really fun. I miss being in the south! 🙂
    Like others above have said, I was also really impressed with how articulate you are. I’m sure you’re a great teacher.

    These videos are great. I’ve been using the foam roller for about 5 months and I can really tell a difference in my running. I’m glad to have your instruction, though, because I was never sure if I was doing right. And I appreciate that other people say they curse loudly while they foam roll, since I do, too!

    I’m not sure what other topics to suggest, but more videos would be great!

  • 37
    Ashley @ Cupcakes & Combat Boots March 8, 2011, 5:32 pm

    Thank you for this. I went out and bought a foam roller and just tried it and WOW! It hurt but it felt great at the same time. This was so helpful!

  • 38
    Maggie March 8, 2011, 8:00 pm

    Awesome tutorials; you are a natural teacher. I’ve been foam rolling my lower body for a while (I have ITB issues), but your tutorials opened my eyes (and muscles?) to so much more (and reminded me to use my roller more often). I’m super impressed (but not at all surprised) by your poise and professionalism in the videos, and you are adorable. (Especially your accent!) Keep ’em coming.

  • 39
    Angie (Losing It and Loving It) March 9, 2011, 10:38 am

    Jen, awesome videos! Very easy to understand, thanks for taking the time to teach us about foam rolling. You’re a natural!

  • 40
    natalie (the sweets life) March 9, 2011, 9:50 pm

    you have the cutest voice! 🙂 great video–i adore my foam roller!

  • 41
    D March 10, 2011, 10:11 pm

    Great video — thanks for posting!!

  • 42
    Katy December 20, 2011, 10:56 pm

    Hi Jen!
    This is super helpful. I’ve been running for as long as I can remember but recently my hamstrings and knees have been acting up. My friend told me to try foam rolling but I was too intimidated until I stumbled across your blog! I did it today and my it bands made me wince in pain. I’m assuming this might be causing the knee issue? How often should I be rolling? Hopefully it will get less painful with time? Love the accent as well!! Thanks for the help!

  • 43
    Coach Ronda December 23, 2011, 8:35 pm

    I’ve been reading up on foam rollers lately and found your videos quite useful. I plan to incorporate one into my exercise regimen soon.

  • 44
    Brooke @ sweats & sweets December 31, 2011, 12:20 pm

    I just received my first foam roller and Christmas and I only looked to your video to educate myself on how to use it. It is so helpful! Thank you so much Jen!

  • 45
    Jacki January 11, 2012, 9:24 am

    Thanks for showing me how to use a foam roller, especially for the lower body! I am a runner and have had different people suggest foam rolling to me before as my IT bands are VERY tight, but was never sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I will be implementing these moves into my stretch period in the gym several times week!

    • 46
      Jen January 11, 2012, 10:04 pm

      you are so welcome. i am happy to hear that you found the videos to be helpful! it band foam rolling is one of those “hurts so good” type of things. hope it helps your running! 😉

  • 47
    Callie June 22, 2012, 1:49 am

    You can also stretch your adductor!! Laying on your stomach and playing the foam roller parrell to your body. Bed your leg to the side at a 90° angle and place the foam roller under your thigh. It is a bit of an awkward position but it’s great!! There are YouTube videos to demonstrate. Just type in foam roller adductor and you’ll find plenty.

    • 48
      Jen June 22, 2012, 11:58 am

      awesome tip, thanks!

  • 49
    Julia June 28, 2013, 9:56 am

    I have been saying I need to learn how to foam roll forever. This blog post and video is super helpful and has encouraged me to finally start trying it! 🙂

    • 50
      Jen July 1, 2013, 2:30 pm

      awesome! it helps so much with injury prevention and all over mobility.

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