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.