6 Foam Roller Exercises For A Healthy Back

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Full disclosure, this post has an amazon affiliate link for the foam roller I use. If you buy one through this link, I'll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you.


One of the most common areas of pain for us is in the back. It’s not hard to see why when we consider that most of our day is spent in a seated position.


Why sitting is bad for your back


There has been tons of research into the effects of sitting on your backside for long periods of time and the effect that has on your long term health but today, we’re focusing specifically on the back.


If you’re sat down reading this, let’s look at how you’re sat.


Where are your hips and how are they tilted? Chances are, it’s tilted backward, lengthening your QL and other lower back muscles. Muscles consistently lengthened lose their strength over time.


How are your legs positioned? Silly question, really. You can’t sit without your thighs been in, at least, a 90 degree angle. Think about the muscles at the front of your hips, the hip flexors. They’re constantly in a shortened position to be able to pull your legs into that position.

Your knee joint is flexed too, which means your hamstrings, like your hip flexors, are constantly tightened. It’s hard to find someone with non-tightened hamstrings and isn’t a serious yoga enthusiast!


What does all this mean for your lower back?


Well, not only are you creating a weak back by keeping it in a weakened position but more notably, the structure that supports the back isn’t strong


The body doesn’t work in isolated muscle groups but in connections of muscles. So if your hip flexors are tight, this is going to cause your pelvis to posteriorly tilt and keep your lower back in that weak position. This is worsened by the fact you have tight hamstrings and, with weakened QL muscles, you’re more susceptible to injury.


See how we aren’t set up for success?


Enter the foam roller


What we’re essentially teaching our body here is to tighten up in certain areas. What we need to do is focus some attention on creating length and flexibility in the muscles.


With tight muscles also comes knots. If you’ve ever been for a massage, you’ll know what these feel like. Like painful little ball bearings just waiting to be pressed, scrubbed and worked!


Think of the fascia and muscles where these knots appear, as an elastic band with a knot in it.


As you pull that elastic band apart, the knot is getting tighter and limiting the length you can pull the band apart whilst becoming weaker.


It’s the same with muscles so clearly we need to address any knots and adhesions in the muscles as well as increase their flexibility.


The best way to break these knots down is by pressure in the form of a massage but we can’t all find the time or afford to go for a massage every week.


So what’s the answer?


The foam roller!


Self-myofascial release pretty much means self-massage. It’s a DIY process for reducing tightness in the muscles and releasing trigger points. We can also use reflexology balls and lacrosse balls to get into the tighter areas around the shoulder blades and the soles of the feet…that’s for another time though!


By applying this pressure, we’re helping the body to recover and encouraging normal performance. Normal performance means healthy, long and flexible muscles that support the body.


So now that we’ve established the foam roller as a tool to help us, here are 6 exercises you can do right now with a foam roller that will help promote a healthy back.


6 exercises for a healthy back

Before we start on the exercises, here’s how to perform them…

  • Perform each exercise for 2 minutes. That includes each side when it comes to unilateral work

  • The purpose isn’t to roll over it as fast as you can. Go at a deliberate pace and towards the end of the 2 minutes, focus on the spots you can feel the pain by gently rolling that bit of the muscle.

  • Never roll over a joint!

Lower back



With soles of the feet on the floor and your lower back on the roller, slowly lift your hips off the ground so your lying across the roller. Placing your hands across your chest, use your legs to help you roll the lower back across the roller, from the top of your hips to the bottom of your ribs.


Upper back



This is a similar set up to the lower back exercise, only this time, have the roller in the middle of your upper back and your hands behind your head like a sit up. Just like before, use your legs to roll your back across the roller.


Glutes



This one is a small movement. This time, you want to sit on the roller with your hands behind you, soles of the feet on the floor with your legs bent and just roll the buttocks across the roller.

Piriformis



Whilst you’re sat on the roller, you might as well sort out the small muscles in the glutei as well in the shape of the piriformis muscles! The key here is to set up like the glutes roll, only this time, bring your right ankle over your left knee and right leg across your body. This will help you to get deeper. Perform for 2 minutes and repeat on the other side.


Hip flexor



Similar to the glutes and piriformis exercise, this is a small movement right on your hips. Imagine a sheet of muscle going across the top of your front hips and that’s your you want the roller. Lying on your front, place the roller in that spot and just roll enough to dig into that spot.

QL stretch



An often forgotten about area of the lower back is the QL muscle and this contributes massively to tightness in the lower back. With this exercise, we’re focusing on one side at a time. The QL is a sheet of muscle that attaches either side of the hip crest to the lower ribs. Extend your left leg forward and bend your right knee so the sole of your foot is on the floor. Lean into the roller so just the left side of your lower back is on the roller and gently roll the small area from your ribs to your hips. Play around with changing your position to target different areas. Repeat on the other side.


The foam roller is an awesome tool to have in your arsenal. This is the one that I use at home AND it comes with a lacrosse ball and a reflexology ball for those tight to reach places. Win Win! See it on Amazon here.


I hope this helps you!


In a bit.

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