Using foam roller before or after a workout can help decrease muscle fatigue and improve your performance.
Regarding the size of the roller, 18 or 24 inches can target most parts of the body and is portable but a larger one that is 36 inches is more versatile and can be used to target larger body areas like your upper back.
Areas you can use it to loosen up are your outer thigh (iliotibial band, ITB), quadriceps, or upper back.
1. Upper Back (Thoracic Spine)
Rest your back against the broad side of a roller positioned underneath your shoulder blades. Bend your knees with feet flat on the floor. Lift your butt and place your hands behind your head or cross your arms over your chest. Keeping your core muscles tight, slowly roll forward and back so that the roller moves up and down between the middle of your back and the top of your shoulder blades. Always keep your head and neck in line with your back.
2. Latissimus Dorsi
Lie on your right side with your right arm extended along the floor, and the roller directly under your right armpit – the roller should be perpendicular to your body. Bend your left arm and lightly place your left hand on the floor for support. Roll up and down so the roller moves from your armpit to just above your waist. Once you’re finished, switch positions to work your left side. All through the stretch keep the thumb of your extended arm pointed up towards the ceiling – this puts your arm in a position that helps pre-stretch your lats.
Lie face down with the roller positioned directly under your thighs. Bend your elbows so that your forearms are flat on the floor to support your weight with your feet suspended above the floor. Keeping your abs drawn in and core muscles tight, use your arms to gently roll your body forward and back to move the roller up and down from your pelvic bone to just above your knees. In case you want to increase the intensity stack your feet to roll one quad at a time.
4. Iliotobial (IT) Band
Position your left hip against the broad side of a roller on the floor. Cross your right leg over your left as shown and put both hands on the ground for support. Using your left arm to assist the motion, roll your thigh back and forth over the roller from just below your hip to above your knee. Continue rolling for the allotted time, then switch positions to work your right leg. If you need more pressure to loosen things up, stack your legs – but keep in mind that your stability will be challenged.
5. Hamstrings and Glutes
Sit with your legs extended in front of you and the broad side of a roller positioned directly under your thighs. Place your hands flat on the floor behind you for support. Using your arms to initiate the motion, slowly roll back and forth to move the roller up and down from the bottom of your glutes to just above your knees. As you roll, try rotating your legs in and out from the hips – this will allow you to hit your hamstrings more thoroughly.
Warm-up before these exercises. Everyone should be include mobility work in their training to ensure they’re performing at their best and decrease their risk for injury.