Foam rollers are finding their way into fitness programs everywhere. If you aren’t incorporating them into your class, you soon will be. These inexpensive personal massage tools will help you and your clients with muscle recovery, soreness, injury prevention, flexibility training and overall wellness. “Rock ’n’ Roll Stretch” offers an active stretch format that combines both self-administered myofascial release and traditional stretching techniques. For best results, select a variety of positions, planes, angles and intensities, using the foam roller for both body positioning and active rolling. Encourage participants to

  • adjust positions often;
  • add or remove body weight on the area being rolled;
  • decrease and increase intensity;
  • stabilize with the hands, feet or other body parts;
  • breathe consistently; and
  • self-monitor for optimum effectiveness.

Rock ’n’ Roll Stretch Details

FORMAT: flexibility and some core work

TOTAL TIME: 30-60 minutes

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: 6-inch round, 36-inch long foam roller for each participant

MUSIC: Use any type of music you or your students enjoy. Encourage rolling at your own pace, whether it is on or off the musical beat. Mid-beat to slow music at 60-120 beats per minute (bpm) is preferable. Experiment with bpm and see what works best with your group.

Warm-Up (10–12 minutes)

Flexibility training is more effective when the body’s core temperature is a bit elevated. A good warm-up for this format incorporates dynamic movement, involves both upper- and lower-body active stretches, works larger and smaller muscle groups and includes full-range-of-motion exercises. Use the foam roller as a balance tool, as a prop or for light rolling. For example, do a series of alternating rear lunges while holding the foam roller on both ends; squeeze the roller between the hands after each lunge and add an overhead press to warm up the shoulders. Another effective exercise is to do a series of squats with the foam roller placed on the quadriceps: stretch out the back, and roll on the quads using the forearms to push and move the roller from the direction of the hip flexors down the quads.

Combination #1 (approximately 12–18 minutes)

Starting Position. Sit on floor with foam roller under legs.

Hamstring Roll and Stretch. Position foam roller under hamstrings. Balance body on hands. Roll from glutes to back of knees. Reposition roller higher or lower as needed. Externally rotate leg from hip while rolling, and then repeat with internal rotation.

L-Position. Place foam roller under ankles and fully extend legs. Body is upright and can bend at hips. With back lengthened, press chest toward legs. Once you reach lowest position, breathe deeply, exhale, compress and push a bit lower. Flex feet or tighten quads to deepen stretch. Ease off, reposition and do it again. Repeat as many times as necessary to release tight muscles. Also try with hips elevated on foam roller and feet in front of body on floor.

Seated Square-Four Position. While seated on foam roller, place one ankle on top of opposite leg. Support leg is at an approximately 90-degree angle. Relax elevated leg at hip, roll onto hip of bent leg, and move back and forth on roller. If you are on left glute, place left hand on floor behind body for support (right hand if you are on right glute).

Iliotibial Band. While lying on outside of quadriceps, position body with elbow or hands on floor and roller at hip. Roll down side of leg with legs held together. If this is too intense, place top leg on floor, either in front or behind lower leg.

Calf. While seated on floor, place roller under gastrocnemius. Balance on both hands, tighten core, and roll over calf area. Move from back of knees down to lower leg. Add pressure on muscle by pushing down while rolling. Roll on inside and outside of calf.

Butterfly Stretch. Sit on floor with bottoms of feet together on foam roller. Squeeze glutes, and press thighs toward ground. Keep knees at a 90-degree angle to reduce joint stress. Also try this exercise while seated on roller, with feet on floor.

Combination #2 (approximately 10–15 minutes)

Starting Position. Begin on all fours, with foam roller under hands.

Hip Flexors. Place right foot at end of roller and left knee on floor. This should resemble a deep lunge. Press hips toward ground, squeeze buttocks to extend hips, and roll hip flexors. Increase intensity and add balance by lifting onto support foot. Release, return to starting position and repeat on opposite side.

Quadriceps Roll. While balancing on forearms, roll up and down entire quads muscle group. To add emphasis, cross legs at ankles or add weight on one side. Externally and internally rotate leg at hip for variation.

Tibialis Anterior. Position roller under one ankle, lift body and apply pressure to muscular part of shin. Roll from knee to ankle, using body weight for pressure.

Forearms. Position roller under forearms, and roll back and forth with palms facing up and then down. Add pressure by adding body weight.

Shoulder Release. Place hands on top of roller on very ends. Drop hips back away from roller, and lower forehead to ground, extending shoulders and opening up chest. Slide roller a bit farther away from body, and repeat.

Combination #3 (approximately 6–10 minutes)

Starting Position. Begin in a sidesaddle position, with roller on one side of body.

Triceps. While lying on one side with roller under triceps, roll from elbow to armpit. Support body weight with opposite arm in front of body.

Biceps. Rotate arm so that roller is positioned under biceps. Carefully move body so as to roll over biceps from deltoid to bend in arm.

Deltoid. With hands together and deltoid on top of roller, gently roll along length of deltoid. Use abdominals and core to bend and position body.

Combination #4 (approximately 6–10 minutes)

Starting Position. Lie lengthwise on top of foam roller.

Shoulder Extension. Raise both arms overhead, reaching backs of hands to floor. Try to keep back in neutral position. Breathe deeply and relax chest and shoulders. Reposition and repeat. Stretch chest by placing hands behind ears, expanding chest and releasing elbows to floor.

Back Roll. Use legs and hands to balance as you roll laterally, from one shoulder blade to the other. Focus on entire back side of body.

Adductor. With foam roller pressed up against one adductor, roll along muscle, supporting body’s weight on elbows and opposite leg.

Cool-Down (5–8 minutes)

Although a formal cool-down is not necessary, the last few minutes of class can be a great time to add something different and fun. Try some personal massage, breathing exercises, balance work, core strength, relaxation time or traditional upper-body stretches.