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3 Foam Roller Exercises to Limber You Up

Pretty much everyone can benefit from a few foam roller exercises, says physical therapist Alison McGinnis at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City. She previously told us why. Here, she shares three moves that will loosen you up fast.

For Quads

Place the roller about 1 inch above your kneecap. Do the following sequence, moving the roller from your knee toward your hip.

  • Roll 2 inches up the leg, 1 inch down. Repeat twice.
  • Move your leg side to side.
  • Bend your knee toward your butt (bottom illo, above).
  • Repeat sequence on your lateral quad (top illo, above).
  • Repeat with the other leg.

For Calves

Sit on the ground with the roller under your Achilles tendon. Do the following sequence, moving the roller up until you reach the top of the calf. (You’ll really need to use your core muscles with this one.)

  • Move 2 inches up the leg, then 1 inch down. Repeat four times.
  • Move your leg side to side two times.
  • Rotate your ankle clockwise, then counterclockwise two times.
  • Repeat the above sequence on the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) parts of the calf.

For the Thoracic Spine

Lie on your back with the roller at a right angle to your spine, under your shoulder blades. (As you roll, remember to stay off your low back; roll only where you have ribs for support.)

  • Lift your hips off the ground (keeping your core tight) and move one arm in all three planes of motion: overhead to the same side (bottom illo, above), overhead and side-bend your arm to the opposite shoulder, and rotating overhead toward the opposite shoulder (top illo, above).
  • Repeat five times for each plane and then switch arms.
  • Then move to a new spot along your thoracic spine.

Because rolling typically requires getting down on the floor, if you aren’t able to get up and down safely, McGinnis suggests seeking modifications for rolling while standing or sitting.

Illustrations: Alexandra Gritz

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