How and why should I use a foam roller?

How and why should I use a foam roller?

Foam rolling (or Self Myofascial Release) is a great way to give yourself a ‘mini massage’, thereby looking after your muscles and ironing out any ‘knots’. It can be done daily, before and after exercise, and the more often you do it the quicker you’ll get results. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but if you persevere you should reach the stage where you no longer have sore spots and you’re just maintaining good condition. Here are my top tips for getting it right.


Tight calves can lead to all sorts of injuries, including shin splints and Achilles tendonitis as well as ankle and knee pain, and become tight quickly because we’re on our feet a lot.

Start at the bottom of the calf and roll at a speed of about 1 inch every 3 seconds. If you find a ‘knot’ or painful area, stop and hold on the foam roll for 20-30 seconds (if you can) and then carry on rolling until you reach the back of the knee. Repeat, and then do the other leg. If it feels too uncomfortable to do one leg at a time, uncross them and do both together.

ITB (Iliotibial band)

This is fascia rather than a muscle, and this, combined with it’s position on the thigh makes it very difficult to stretch in the conventional way. It runs down the side of your thigh from your hip to your knee, about where the seam on a pair of trousers would be. When very tight, it can be the cause of knee pain (runner’s knee).

Roll as slowly as you can and make sure your foot stays off the floor. Stay on any sore spots for 20-30 seconds and then carry on (you may want to just keep going at first). This can be difficult when you first try it, but don’t let that put you off. It’s only painful because there are issues in there that won’t just go away by themselves!


This is a small muscle in your buttock area which is difficult to stretch but becomes tight quite quickly with exercise. It can be the cause of sciatic pain in some people, as when tight it squeezes the sciatic nerve which runs through it.

For the left side, cross your left leg over your right, and put your weight on your left hand, exposing as much of your left buttock to the foam roll as possible. Use your bent right leg to manoeuvre you forwards and backwards. Do this for 30 seconds and then swap sides.

Latissimus dorsi

This is one of your large back muscles, which can lead to postural alterations when tight. It can be rolled by moving backwards and forward on the point at the back of your armpit. Do this for 30 seconds and then swap sides.

Erector spinae

This is the area that runs down either side of the ‘bony’ bit of your spine. It should feel quite therapeutic to gently roll from side to side over this muscle. Slightly clench your buttocks and push your hips forward to expose more of your back to the roller. Stay on the foam roll for at least 30 seconds.

Done regularly, this can become a really enjoyable part of your fitness routine. Stick with it!