Foam Roller Exercise for Thighs

A foam roller irons out the knots in your muscles in the same way that a rolling pin levels the lumps in dough. By slowly pressing your body weight against the roller, you can apply broad and direct pressure to your thighs. The benefits equate to those of a deep tissue massage, but at a fraction of the cost. Rollers are typically three feet long with a 4- or 6-inch diameter. Because they’re more stable than exercise balls, foam rollers can be used at an early stage in rehabilitation.

How It Works

Foam roller exercises for the thighs employ a process to increase flexibility and range of movement, or self-myofascial release. This process works via dual neural receptors – the Golgi tendon organ and the muscle spindle – located in your thigh muscles. The muscle spindle recognizes changes in the length of your muscle fiber. It relays this information to your central nervous system, which triggers the stretch reflex and shortens the muscle. The Golgi tendon organ picks up changes in muscle tension. If you stimulate the Golgi tendon organ, it blocks the muscle spindle from functioning, inhibits the stretch reflex and reduces muscle tension. Pressure applied by a foam roller stimulates the Golgi tendon organ in your thigh muscle and helps you to loosen the muscle and restore its natural length.

Example Rolls

Two example foam roller exercises for the thighs include the iliotibial band roll and the quad roller. The IT band is a group of fibers located along the outside of your thigh. Lie on your side. Place the foam roller under the side of your thigh. Position your thigh so it rests in a perpendicular angle to the roller. Cross your opposite leg over the leg on the roller. Place the bottom of your foot of your crossed leg on the floor to begin and control the rolling action. Rest your arms on the ground for support. Roll up and down the lateral portion of your thigh from your hip to the top of your knee. Focus on areas where the muscle is particularly tight. To do the roll for your quadriceps, lie face down with the foam roller beneath the front of your thighs. Roll over your thighs from your hip to the top of your knee. To increase the pressure, shift your entire body weight to the front of one thigh.


Foam roller exercises help to break down interlacing muscle fibers and improve the flow of oxygenated blood to targeted muscles. By lowering tension in your thighs and increasing the muscle’s flexibility, these exercises can serve to prevent injury and boost athletic performance. They can also reduce muscle soreness and correct imbalances in your body.

Tips for Use

Apply pressure for 10 to 30 seconds in foam roller exercises. If the rolling movement is too painful, lighten or relax the pressure. If you hit a particularly tight area in your thighs, take a rest at that point for 20 to 30 seconds. When you first start using the foam roller, it’s easy to fall off. Use your arms and feet to stabilize your body position.

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