Foam Roller Reset

by Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS on Apr 22, 2016


Help students integrate the work they did in class.

The foam roller, now a standard piece of equipment, is an excellent tool for massaging soft tissue, realigning the spine, increasing core stability and enhancing postural awareness. Using the foam roller at the end of a group exercise class is a great way to “reset” and encourage a progressive cool-down where the focus is on breathing and overall relaxation. A standard-length foam roller (3 feet by 6 inches) works best for this purpose. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Roll about 3–6 inches at a time, using slow, controlled strokes. Spend about 30–60 seconds on each area.
  • Maintain proper spinal alignment and correct posture while rolling, particularly in the shoulder and neck areas.
  • Be cautious, as some areas may be painful to roll. Tell students not to roll if bruising occurs or if they experience intense pain.
  • Choose softer rollers for people who may be more sensitive to pressure. Rollers come in a variety of densities.
  • • Immediately stretch the massaged area to take advantage of the increased 

Gluteals and Seated Figure 4

  • Sit on foam roller, lean right slightly, and load body weight.
  • Using small strokes, gently roll back and forth on gluteal and hip area.
  • Stretch: Place R ankle over left thigh.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Quadriceps Rolling

  • In prone position, place roller under R thigh, allowing L leg to splay out.
  • Use arms and R foot to roll, with controlled strokes, up and down front of thigh.
  • Start at hip flexor area and move down leg toward knee. Do not roll directly over knee joint.
  • Stretch: Lie on L side, grasp R foot and flex knee to bring it closer to hamstring.
  • Repeat for L leg.

Calf Rolling

  • Sit with legs extended.
  • Place foam roller under both calves (or just one at a time).
  • Engage core, lift body, and load weight onto arms.
  • Roll out calves from knee joint down to ankle, and then perform calf stretches.

Supine Spinal Alignment 
With Scissor Arms

  • Place edge of roller directly under tailbone (roller extends behind you lengthwise), and lie back so entire spine, including head, is supported.
  • With feet about hip-distance apart, flat on floor, flex knees and bring arms straight up over shoulders toward ceiling, palms facing.
  • Slowly scissor arms: Let one arm/hand fall back behind head toward floor, while other falls down by side.
  • Continue to scissor arms, moving through pain-free range of motion that is easy to control.
  • Variations: Abduct arms to sides of body, or move one arm at a time.

Supine Bridge and Leg Series

  • From same position as above, slowly move into bridge: lifting hips first, then lower back and finally midback.
  • Hold position at top of movement (with gluteals), take deep breath, exhale and slowly bring body back to roller, one spinal section at a time in reverse order.
  • Repeat, matching movement with breath, 3–6 reps.
  • Stabilize body by placing one foot and both hands on floor while lifting opposite leg straight up toward ceiling.
  • Point and flex ankle as you slowly and with control lower leg until it reaches floor. Focus on maintaining leg length, moving with control and keeping spine on roller.
  • Repeat 2×–3×; switch sides.

When you’ve finished, have participants roll off and lie supine on the floor. Guide them through a 60-second meditation, encouraging them to breathe deeply and focus on feeling their body weight supported by the floor, bringing attention to their long, extended limbs and relaxed spine.

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About the Author

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS, C.S.C.S. is an international fitness educator, twice published author (Human Kinetics) and 30-year fitness industry veteran. Irene is faculty at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and SCW Fitness. She is the Education Director for Octane Fitness, an Orangetheory Fitness coach and a RYKA Fitness Ambassador. Irene contributes to several fitness and consumer publications, is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for ACE and NASM, an IDEA Fitness Expert, and contributing author to the newest release of the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Manual. Irene holds positions on the advisory board for Diabetic Living magazine and the Egg Nutrition Council. Irene has starred in dozens of DVD's, has written 13 fitness instructional manuals (pre-natal, water fitness, small group training, kids fitness, HIIT program design, strength training, group exercise, etc.) and is a master trainer for TRX, Savvier Fitness, Power Systems, SCW Fitness Education, JumpSport and KnotOut. Her primary certifications include NSCA, ACE, ACSM, AEA, AFAA and YogaFit.