Military Muscle | Foam rolling for the masses — but know the do’s & don’ts

Military Muscle | Foam rolling for the masses — but know the do’s & don’ts


In the past, foam roller massage exercises were for elite athletes. Now the rollers are being touted for everyone, and every sports store carries them.

Foam rollers fall into that area of fitness known as recovery — an area that unfortunately is too often ignored by trainers and athletes alike.

Think of this bottom line: Consistent use of foam rollers will help you get well faster if you have an issue and keep you healthy longer. They also improve blood circulation in the skin, give you better spine mobility and lengthen tight muscles.

Besides the things to do, there are always things not to do, and foam rollers have some of them:

Don’t roll too long or too quickly. Longer periods actually work against injury prevention, and rolling too quickly works against circulation, mobility and range of motion.

Don’t be too aggressive. Stop at “it hurts so good” versus pain levels that can have you crying.

Don’t hold your breath. Breathe normally. This can allow the massage to go a bit deeper.

Don’t roll over bony joints. You could cause hyperextension.

Be forewarned: Even if you try to do everything right, your initial foam roll session could be a bit painful — the ITB (iliotibial band) roll in particular. Stick with it; the second session will be better, and every additional one will result in improvement.

You can use foam or even PVC pipe. The harder the medium, the more it hurts. Start by sitting with your butt behind the foam roller, soft fleshy part of your hamstring on top of the foam.

Do five reps, back and forth, of each of the following:


(Shown above) Roll forward so that foam reaches to just below gluteus, then roll back until foam reaches just beneath your knee. Your hands should support the weight of your body off the floor. Do the reps at a slow working pace. Add pressure by putting one leg on top of the other.

Iliotibial band (ITB)

OFF milmuscle foam roller

Lie on your right or left side with roller just below your hip. Your top leg can be on top of the other leg or in front. Before you start, a warning: This one hurts, and it’s not just nuisance pain. Use your hands for support and roll from hip to knee and back.


OFF milmuscle foam roller

Balance on your forearms with quads on the foam roller. Roll from knee to top of thigh and back.


OFF milmuscle foam roller

Place the roller under your calves and support yourself with your hands. Roll from knee to ankle.

Upper back

OFF milmuscle foam roller

Position the roller beneath your shoulder blades, with arms crossed over your chest. Keep your gluteus just off the floor, knees bent but feet flat on the floor. Using your legs, roll from shoulder blades to neck.

Lower back

OFF milmuscle foam roller

Position the roller at the base of the spine, legs bent. Using your legs, roll from the base of the spine to just below your shoulder blades and back.


Demonstrating this week’s workout is Army Spc. Adrianna Maza. Maza is stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia, and is training for the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., this fall. She lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband and three dogs.

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Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .