Foam Rolling 101 for Your Legs

January 28, 2014


Foam rolling is a great way to improve function in joints that are restricted due to tightness or inflammation. Foam rolling can help improve alignment and range of motion. Research has shown that the combination of foam rolling with motion is the fastest way to improve flexibility and increase blood flow.

It is important to roll out your entire leg for a total of 2 minutes. It is also important to roll out both legs equally. There has also been a misconception of rolling only on the Iliotibial band (IT band). The IT band is literally compared to that of a steel cable. So directly rolling on it will not make any changes in the tissue. You also want to be sure not to roll on any bony prominences.

The whole purpose of foam rolling is to break up fascia. Fascia encases both muscles and nerves and located throughout your entire body. There is fascia encasing your entire leg so it is necessary to roll out all of the following major muscle groups.

First you want to start rolling out your hip

You want to focus rolling your glutes on an angle. As you are doing this, you want to be balancing on 1 arm while also supporting yourself on your opposite leg. You want to incorporate motion by bending your knee at the same time. This is evident in the pictures below as she moves back and forth on her hip as she bends her knee.

Foam rolling hip with straight legFoam rolling hip with a bent knee

Second, you want to roll your hamstrings

Put one leg on top of the other and roll back and fourth. As you roll up and down try rolling side to side as well since there are several hamstring muscles to target. If you notice in the pictures below, she targeted both sides on the hamstring muscles as she moved up and down on the foam roller.

Woman Foam Rolling Hamstrings Left SideWoman Foam Rolling Hamstrings Right Side

Next you want to roll your calves

Lifting your body up with your arms and one leg on top of the other, roll back and forth. Be sure to point your foot up and down along with rolling side to side. Just like rolling the hamstrings, she is rolling side to side as she points her toes up and down.

Woman foam rolling calvesWoman foam rolling calves with pointed toes

Now you can flip over to roll out your shins

You want to target a muscle called your anterior tibialis. It’s a muscle on the outer part of your shins. Facing the ground and balancing on your elbows, roll back and forth on your outer shin closer to your knee where your ITB attaches. Be careful not to roll directly on your fibula (the bone on the outer part right below your knee). There is a nerve that runs right along it that may be possibly damaged when foam rolling. Looking at the pictures below, notice how she is pointing and flexing her foot as she rolls her shins.

Foam rolling shinsfoam rolling shins with flexed foot

Lastly, you want to foam roll your quads

With arms extended and facing the ground, start rolling out your quads focusing on the outer portion closer to your knee. This is where IT band has its biggest influence. You want to bend your knee back and forth as you roll from your knee to hip.

foam rolling quads with bent kneesfoam rolling quads with straight legs


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through our website: [email protected] or you can call us at our office at 212-362-4742.