The 6 Best Foam Roller Exercises For Legs

Using a foam roller is a helpful way to warm up your leg muscles before a workout or soothe sore legs after exercise.

Foam roller exercises for legs are generally easy to perform and can be readily incorporated into your pre-workout or post-workout recovery routines.

However, many people are not sure how to foam roll their legs or what are the best foam roller exercises to do.

In this article, we will show you how to roll your legs and provide step-by-step instructions for how to perform the following foam roller exercises for legs.

Let’s dive in! 

Foam roller exercise for your calves.

The Best Foam Roller Exercises For Legs

Here are some of the best foam roller for legs exercises:

#1: Foam Roller Exercise for Quads

The foam roller quad exercise is a great way to relieve tight and sore quads from running, cycling, lifting weights, rowing, and doing stair climbing workouts.

Here is how to foam roll quad muscles:

  1. Get in a forearm plank position with the foam roller located at the top of your thighs just below the crease in your leg at the bottom of your groin.
  2. Loading your body weight into your forearms, slowly lean your body forward so that your torso extends past your forearms. This will allow the foam roller to travel down your quads.
  3. Continue foam rolling your quads until the foam roller is just above your knees. Do not roll on your knees. 
  4. Then, switch the direction so that you are shifting your body weight, pressing back into the forearm plank position to help move the foam roller back up to the top of your quads.
  5. If any areas feel particularly tight, pause and hold the position for a full breath. Then, continue foam rolling.
  6. Foam roll your quads back and forth using this same movement pattern for 30-60 seconds.

#2: Foam Roller Exercise for Hamstrings

A good foam roller for legs workout routine should include the foam roller hamstring exercise.

The hamstrings are the muscles that run along the back of the thigh. These muscles help extend the leg at the hip and flex the knee. 

Hamstrings tend to be chronically stiff and sore for people who sit for long periods of time, as well as active individuals who do a lot of walking, incline walking, running, cycling, swimming, and lower-body weightlifting.

Here is how to perform the foam roller hamstring exercise:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of your body with your hands face down on either side of your hips.
  2. Situate the foam roller at the top of your hamstrings (under your legs) just below where your bottom meets the back of your thigh.
  3. Press your body weight into your palms and onto the foam roller, leaning into your upper body and pushing your butt backward to help move the foam roller down your hamstrings. You will need to “walk“ your hands along your body to help move the foam roller along your hamstrings.
  4. Stop when the foam roller is at the bottom of your hamstrings just before the crease in the back of your knees.
  5. Then, reverse directions by walking your hands back and leaning your weight forward to scoot your butt back into the starting position. 
  6. Stop when you get to the top of your hamstrings.
  7. Continue rolling up and down your hamstrings for 30 to 60 seconds
  8. Pause on any sore spots or make tiny micro rolls along muscle knots.

#3: Foam Roller Exercise for Hip Flexors

One of the best foam roller leg exercises is the foam roller hip flexor roll.

The hip flexors refer to the group of muscles at the front of the hips that help lift the leg up. These muscles get particularly tight after sitting for long periods of time or from chronic overuse with repetitive activities like running and cycling.

Here is how to use a foam roller on your hip flexors:

  1. Lie face down with the foam roller under one hip flexor and the other leg out to the side. Prop your body up on your forearms.
  2. Make small movements forward and backward to foam roll the hip flexor.
  3. Angle the foam roller in different ways so that you can also roll side to side along the width of the hip flexor muscle group to mobilize and target all of the different muscle fibers.
  4. If you detect any particularly tender spot, pause and press into the foam roller as tolerated before continuing to roll.
  5. Roll for 30 seconds.
  6. Switch sides.

#4: Foam Roller Exercise for Calves

Most people find that one of the best foam roller leg exercises in terms of relief of muscle tightness is foam rolling the calves.

The calf muscles are on the back of your lower leg, and they tend to get tight after strength training, running, hiking, walking, cycling, or even wearing high-heel shoes.

Here is how to foam roll calves:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of your body.
  2. Place your palms on the floor on either side of your hips. 
  3. Situate the foam roller under one calf muscle just below the back of your knee.
  4. Press your weight into your hands to lift your body up so that you are weight-bearing through your hands as well as the one calf muscle on the foam roller.
  5. You can place your other leg over the one on the foam roller to increase the intensity of the foam roller calf exercise.
  6. Roll down towards your ankle, moving your upper body along with the foam roller while it travels down the length of your calf muscle.
  7. Roll back up towards the back of your knee.
  8. Stop and pause at any tender areas, leaning into the foam roller and making little rolls back and forth along muscle knots.
  9. Roll for 30-60 seconds, and then switch legs.

#5: Foam Roller Exercise for Shins

Most people don’t think of the shins when they think of foam roller exercises for legs, but there are muscle groups along the medial and lateral compartments of your shin bone that can get quite stiff and sore.

Using a foam roller on your shin can help loosen up your anterior tibialis muscle along the inside of your shin and the peroneal muscle groups along the outside of your shin.

Particularly if you are using a firm or high-density foam roller or a foam roller with a textured surface, you may want to avoid using the foam roller directly on the shin bone, so it should be angled to either side of the shin for this foam roller leg exercise.

Here is how to perform this foam roller shin exercise:

  1. Kneel down on all fours in a tabletop position with the foam roller located at the top of your shins just below your knees.
  2. Angle your hips so that you are shifting where along your shins you are rolling (inside or outside).
  3. Keep flip-flopping the direction that you shift your hips with every roll so that you are rolling both the inside and the outside of each shin equally.

#6: Foam Roller Exercise for IT Band

If you are going to be using a foam roller on your legs, you should absolutely include this foam roller leg exercise.

The IT band is a band of fibrous connective tissue that travels down the outside of your thigh from your hip to your knee. 

It can become sore and tight on runners, hikers, cyclists, and athletes who do a lot of squatting or lunging exercises when strength training the legs.

Here is how to perform the IT band foam roller exercise:

  1. Lie on the right side of your body with the foam roller just below hip level. Your right leg should be straight, and you can bend your left hip and knee to bring the leg out in front of you for stability. Rest your body weight on the right forearm as if doing a side plank.
  2. Using your right forearm and left leg on the ground to brace your body, roll the foam roller down the length of your thigh until just above knee level.
  3. Roll back up to the starting position.
  4. Continue this pattern. Stop and pause on any tender spots.
  5. Roll for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Overall, foam rolling your legs can provide a variety of benefits, including relieving muscle pain and tension, assisting exercise recovery, reducing muscle soreness after exercise, improving flexibility and range of motion, and even potentially improving exercise performance.

Read more about foam rolling your IT band here.

Foam roller hip flexor exercise.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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