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3 foam rolling exercises to relieve muscle pain

This circuit is for beginners. Ideally, you should start with a smooth roller, as opposed to one with grooves, as those are designed for a deeper massage.

Ashley demonstrates foam rolling the glute.
Ashley demonstrates foam rolling the glute.Read moreCourtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Could your body benefit from a massage? Such daily activities as being deskbound, cramped in a car commuting, keeping up with active children, or training hard at the gym can cause muscles to burn out over time. One of the best remedies for relaxing and relieving tired, tight tissue is a massage.

Manipulating weary muscles and kneading knotted tissue helps release built-up tension, improves circulation, and increases flexibility, which allows for a better range of motion and enhanced performance when engaging in sports or exercising.

But if you have COVID-19-related concerns and aren’t comfortable being in close quarters with a masseuse — or are looking for a cheaper option — you can achieve similar rejuvenating results with a self-massaging device such as a foam roller. This tension-taming tool allows you to target the specific areas of your body that need it most.

How it works: Foam rolling is a technique known as self-myofascial release. Fascia refers to connective bands of tissue surrounding and supporting everything in your body, from muscles and blood vessels to nerves and organs. Its layers stretch to accommodate your movements. But when fascia is unhealthy, it tightens, pulling on the surrounding muscles which can cause pain, stiffness, and what we refer to as “knots.”

With foam rolling, you can apply pinpoint pressure with your body weight against the roller’s surface. These rollers come in a variety of sizes, textures, and levels of firmness.

» READ MORE: 4 agility exercises to improve balance and prevent falls

The following foam rolling circuit is for beginners. Ideally, you should start with a smooth roller, as opposed to one with grooves, as those are designed for a deeper massage. When performing self-massage, avoid applying pressure to sensitive areas such as the ankles, knees, or elbows. For example, when rolling the leg, work the muscles above the knee then stop and adjust to massage the muscles below the knee, making sure to never push on the actual knee joint. If you suffer from lower-back pain, consult your physician prior to placing pressure on this area as it can cause more harm than good if not performed properly.

For best results, use this technique daily. It also works well pre- and post-workout.


  1. Start by sitting on the floor with the roller propped under your right calf and left ankle crossed over your right. Your hands should be behind your body for balance and support.

  2. Gently roll over the calf area between your ankle and back of knee, remembering not to put pressure on the actual joints. When ready, practice on the opposite leg.


  1. Adjust your positioning so the foam roller is resting behind your right hamstring with your leg extended. Your hands should be behind your body for support, with you left leg bent to help move your body.

  2. Roll from just beneath your right glute down through the back of your knee. Rock over the rear part of your leg for as long as desired, then practice on the opposite side

» READ MORE: Short on time? Get fit in 5 minutes with these compound exercises.


  1. Begin by sitting on the foam roller, cross your right leg over your left so it rests on your thigh. Shift your weight onto your left glute, and brace yourself by placing your left hand on the floor. If you need more support, keep both hands on the floor.

  2. Keep your left foot planted firmly on the ground as you use your left leg to shift your weight back and forth to massage the glute area. When complete, practice on the right side.

To stay loose and limber, you’ve got to get rolling.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to