Foam Rolling for Flexibility and Muscle Soreness

Foam rolling is a newer trend in the exercise world, but a handful of small studies suggest it can increase flexibility and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).1–3 Similar to dynamic stretching, the benefits of foam rolling are attributed to increased blood flow to the muscles.4 Researchers recommend rolling targeted groups of muscles for 20 to 60 seconds 3 to 5 times per week.1 Shins, calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and upper back are all areas that can benefit from rolling. Avoid rolling bony structures, joints, and the lower back, due to risk of injury. Rolling out your glutes and hamstrings can help with lower back pain.4 When you encounter an area that is particularly tight or knotted, apply gentle, steady pressure to the area with the roller to help release the tension, for no longer than 60 seconds.4 Foam rollers can be purchased online and in most stores that sell fitness equipment, with prices ranging from $15 to $80.

Try this simple rolling exercise

Sit on the floor with your left leg bent and your right calf resting on a foam roller. Support yourself by placing your hands on the floor slightly behind you. Shift some of your weight from your left leg to increase pressure on your right calf. Starting just above the Achilles tendon, slowly move the roller back and forth in the area just below the knee and just above the Achilles tendon.

Repeat on the left side.


  1. Ristevski S. Do foam rollers actually work? A review of the evidence. Healthy But Smart (site). 3 May 2018. https:// Accessed 18 Oct 2018.
  2. Pearcey GE, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto JE, et al. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015;50(1):5–13.
  3. Cheatham SW, Kolber MJ, Cain M, Lee M. The effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roll or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(6):827–838.
  4. DeVries C. A Beginner’s Guide to Foam Rolling. Sports Health: Knowledge from Veritas (site). 28 Jan 2015. https://www. Accessed 18 Oct 2018. NHR

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