Foam Roll Techniques for Outdoor Junkies

So you’re a runner, biker, hiker and snowboarder. You’re tough, active—and you’re eventually going to break down. Outdoor junkies can benefit from foam rolling, which brings blood flow and nutrients back to stiff, tired muscles. Foam rolling the following six spots is ideal to repair the muscles that are overused through gait, or compressed from heavy packs.

How to Foam Roll
There are many ways to foam roll, but one effective technique is to start at the bottom of the muscle and slowly move the roll up two inches and down one inch. Continue this process until you make way to the top of the muscle and reverse the movement down two inches and up one inch until you reach the base. From there you can move toward the other limb or area of the body.

Calf and Soleus
The calves are responsible for planter flexion, which simply increases the angle between the shin and the top of the foot. Thus heel raises or pushing the foot off the ground overworks the calves. To foam roll, sit on the ground and place one leg on the foam roll, several inches above the ankle. Cross your other leg on top of the leg on the roll to increase pressure. As you start to move, you’ll need to lift your hips off the ground. Thus, keep hands under the shoulders as you allow weight to be applied onto the roll. 

Hamstrings flex the knee, which is a prime movement through various outdoor sports. Tight hamstrings are also affected from much training on various inclined terrain. Sit on the ground and place one leg on the foam roll just above the knee, at the base of the hamstring. To increase intensity, cross the opposite leg on top of the leg on the roll. Place hands under shoulder and lift the body off the floor and slowly implement the rolling toward the top of the muscle.

Gluteal Muscles

The glutes assist many with hip extension, but activate and turn on in many gait patterns. Glutes and the external rotators are often super tight or compressed from sitting on a bike saddle. To foam roll, sit one cheek on the foam roll with that leg extended. Start at the base of the glute, and place your opposite foot on the floor with a bent knee. The hands will be behind the foam roller to keep the upper body in alignment and start the rolling process. Switch to the opposite glute.


The quads are known to extend the knee, which is another prime movement through all outdoor pursuits. To foam roll, set yourself up in a plank position with either one or two legs on the foam roll. The roll should be just an inch or two above the knees. Two legs will decrease the intensity, which is recommended for novice foam rollers. As you are on your forearms, slowly begin the rolling process and you shift the body and walk yourself forward with the arms.

Thoracic Spine

Commonly known as the “T-Spine,” this area often gets compressed with heavy packs or humpbacked when cycling long distance. It’s a mobile part of the spine that allows for a greater range of rotation. This foam roll technique can be completed with one slow, fluid motion rather than the back and forth movement. To foam roll, sit on the floor with bent knees and the roll at the base of the rib cage. Thus, the body may look like a V shape. Slowly, start to prop the hips into a bridging position as you allow the roll to move upward toward the base of the shoulders. Slowly, lower the hips to return to the start position. Continue this motion.

latsThe Lats

The lats are known to synergistically assist various upper limb movements and assist in stabilization as well. This positions maybe the most “painful” for some. To foam roll, lie on your side with the roll near the base of the shoulder blade or mid-chest. Keep the bottom arm and leg extended. With the top leg, place the foot on the floor and start the foam roll process until you reach the upper lat or near underarm.