How to Effectively Use a Foam Roller

Foam Roller Tips for Tight Back and Shoulders

Happy Wednesday! Every day feels a little off this week because Monday wasn’t a work day, but it’s the good kind of off – where I realize it’s actually one day later in the week than I expected. Wednesdays are by far my favorite day of the work week!

Today I have a different kind of “workout” to share with you. It’s not so much a workout to burn calories, but definitely something that I’ve added to the end of my daily workout routine: foam rolling. I have a love/hate relationship with foam rolling. It is sooo hard for me to sit down and make myself foam roll (just like stretching), but once I’m done with it I always feel a million times better and am so glad I did it.


While I do foam roll my legs during marathon training, the type of foam rolling I want to share with you is actually for your back. I’ve struggled with lower back pain and shoulder tension for many years (thanks mom, you definitely passed that on to me;), and I’ve always been on the lookout for different ways to help alleviate that tension and pain. I tried stretching, rolling golf balls, leaning up against door frames in an attempt to get knots out, fixing my posture, taking deeps breaths… SO many different things – and have never found anything that gives me relief quite like this foam roller activity.

I use the foam roller on my back to do two things: alleviate lower back pain/stretch out my spine, and relieve tension in my shoulders.

Foam Rolling Tips for Runners

For my lower and upper back:

  • For 30 seconds to a minute: start by rolling the foam roller up and down your back slowing, without stopping at any points, keeping my chest and neck parallel to the floor and butt off the ground (this creates a bit of an ab workout;)
  • For 20-30 seconds: move the foam roller to the lowest point in your back and do a back bend over the foam roller until your head hits the floor and butt is still on the ground. Make sure your head rests completely on the floor so there is no neck tension and hold while taking deep breaths
  • After holding this position, lift your upper body back up so it’s parallel to the floor, roll the foam roller up just a smidge higher, and hold the same back bend.
  • I repeat all the way up my back, about 8 times, until I reach the highest point in my upper back near my neck. I’ve found that this really stretches out my spine and helps loosen my back.


To relieve shoulder tension:

  • Place the foam roller under my back vertically, so it runs right along your spine
  • Scoot down so your head is resting on the top of the foam roller and your butt is all the way on the floor
  • Lay your arms straight out at a 90 degree angle from your body and relax


  • That’s all there is to it 🙂 I was so surprised how tight my shoulders were when I first did this – so tight that I couldn’t get my arms to reach the floor. I’ve noticed a definite improvement and loosening here as I’ve begun to do this exercise consistently each day.

Those are my two tidbits today! Turns out that taking pictures of yourself foam rolling is more challenging than one might think, even with the self timer, so these are the best I could do. Hopefully my explanation makes sense and you can try it out! I think this is a great meditative exercise as well, and do it most often at the end of the day to help wind down before bed.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Foam Roller Tips

Foam Roller Tips for Tight Back and Shoulders

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