A foam roller is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that everyone should have. They’re inexpensive (a cheap one costs around $25), portable and you can use them to do a wide variety of exercises. They can be used to help you stretch, relieve sore muscles and even build strength. Here are our favorite ways to use a foam roller.

Massage Your Muscles

The best and most popular use for a foam roller is for massaging your muscles, also called self-myofascial release. If you’ve been working out hard and your muscles are aching, massaging them with a foam roller can help loosen them up. It gives you a deep tissue massage that breaks up scar tissue and other tight spots. It promotes healing and speeds up the recovery process. Here are some of our favorite massage moves that can be used for both warm ups and cool downs. Be warned: it will hurt in the best way possible.

Back

Sit upright with the foam roller under your lower back. Place your hands on the floor behind you. Slowly bend your knees and move the roller up your back to just beneath your shoulder blades. 

Hamstrings

Tight hamstrings seem to be a big complaint. Place the roller under your thighs and roll from your butt to your knees. Cross one leg over the other and roll one thigh at a time for increased pressure.

IT Band

Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath one hip. Cross your top log in front of you with the knee bent. Move your bottom leg over the roller from the hip to the knee with as much pressure on the bottom leg as you can stand.

Do Some Yoga

Foam rollers can be used as a yoga prop to help deepen your poses and make yoga more accessible.  

Make the Ground Closer

If you’re in triangle or another pose where you want your hand on the ground but can’t quite get there, a shorter foam roller can help. Place the flat edge on the floor anywhere you need the ground to be a little closer.

Ease Lower Back Pain

Sometimes when you’re lying flat on the floor in yoga, it can cause pain or discomfort in your lower back. Place a foam roller under your knees to relieve pressure. 

Extend Your Stretch

If the basic yoga poses have gotten a little too easy for you, use a foam roller to make them more challenging. Place a foam roller under your ankle for a deeper hamstring stretch or use it to really work your shoulders and lats. 

Build Strength

You can use a foam roller to boost your workouts and help you build muscle. 

Plank and Pushup

Make planks and pushups a little harder by adding an unstable surface. Place your hands on the foam roller while doing a plank, or put it under your feet while you’re doing pushups.

Core Workouts

Instability helps build your core. Place the foam roller lengthwise down your spine while doing sit ups and marching crunches.

Balance

A foam roller can work like a balance disc. Try a rolling lunge. Instead of stepping backwards into the lunge, keep the roller under your back foot and roll into it.