Foam Roller Exercises (Upper Body)

by PhysioAdvisor Staff

Exercises > Foam Roller > Foam Roller Exercises (Upper Body)

The following Foam Roller Exercises are designed to release muscle tension and improve the flexibility of specific joints and muscles of the upper back, chest, shoulder, arm and forearm. When performed correctly, these Foam Roller Exercises can be used to perform effective self massage or muscle release techniques, simulating the effects of a sports massage.

You should discuss the suitability of these Foam Roller Exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.


Foam Roller Exercises (Upper Body)

The following foam roller exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per day provided they do not cause or increase pain. Initially, they should be performed gently, infrequently and on a soft surface to allow the body time to get used to the exercise. As your flexibility improves, these foam roller exercises can be progressed by performing them on harder surfaces or gradually increasing the duration or frequency of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Thoracic Extension

The following foam roller exercises are designed to improve upper back flexibility, posture and thoracic extension range of movement (backward bending of the upper back).

Place the foam roller under your upper back as demonstrated (figure 1). Breathe normally keeping your back and neck relaxed. Hold this position for 15 – 90 seconds provided it is comfortable and does not cause pain.

Foam Roller Exercises - Thoracic Extension

Figure 1 – Thoracic Extension

The above exercise can be progressed by placing the roller under your upper back as demonstrated (figure 2). Begin with your arms across your chest. Breathe normally, keeping your back and neck relaxed (a pillow may be required for comfort). Hold this position for 15 – 90 seconds provided it is comfortable and does not cause pain. Move the roller up or down a few centimeters and repeat along the length of your upper back provided there is no increase in symptoms. This exercise can also be performed with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.

Foam Roller Exercises - Thoracic Extension (Arms Across Chest)

Figure 2 – Thoracic Extension (Arms Across Chest)

This exercise can further be progressed by placing arms over head as demonstrated (figure 3) or by rolling the foam roller backwards and forwards along the length of the upper back. This exercise can also be performed with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.

Foam Roller Exercises - Thoracic Extension (Arms Overhead)

Figure 3 –Thoracic Extension (Arms Overhead)

Latissimus Dorsi Release

This foam roller exercise is designed to improve Latissimus Dorsi flexibility (muscle of the outer aspect of your back).

Place the foam roller under the outer aspect of your back (Latissimus Dorsi) as demonstrated (figure 4). Using your legs, slowly move your body forwards and backwards allowing the roller to massage the side of your upper back. Breathe normally, keeping your upper body relaxed. Repeat this process for 15 – 90 seconds provided it is comfortable and does not cause pain. This exercise can also be performed with your hands behind your head or your arms across your chest.

Foam Roller Exercises - Latissimus Dorsi Release

Figure 4 – Latissimus Dorsi Release

Rotator Cuff Release

This foam roller exercise is designed to improve rotator cuff flexibility (muscles of the shoulder blade).

Place the foam roller under your shoulder blade (rotator cuff) as demonstrated (figure 5). Using your legs, slowly move your body forwards and backwards allowing the roller to massage the shoulder blade region and back of the shoulder. Breathe normally keeping your muscles relaxed. Repeat this process for 15 – 90 seconds provided it is comfortable and does not cause pain. This exercise can also be performed with your hands behind your head or your arms across your chest.

Foam Roller Exercises - Rotator Cuff Release

Figure 5 – Rotator Cuff Release


  Physiotherapy products for Foam Roller Exercises

To purchase physiotherapy products to assist with Foam Roller Exercises click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.


  More Exercises


Find a Physio

Find a Physio

Find a physiotherapist in your local area who can help with Foam Roller Exercises.


'PhysioAdvisor Exercises' iPhone AppPhysioAdvisor Exercises’ iPhone App

Download the ‘PhysioAdvisor Exercises’ iPhone App to your iPhone.


Become A Member  Become a Member

Become a PhysioAdvisor Member and gain full access to our complete database of physiotherapy exercises and injury rehabilitation information. For more details see Become a Member.


Return to the top of Foam Roller Exercises (Upper Body).