Foam Rolling for Flexibility (and other Self Myofascial Release techniques) Part 2

In last months blog post I covered Self Myofascial Release (SMFR) techniques for the lower body in Foam Rolling for Flexibility (and other Self Myofascial Release techniques) Part 2. This months blog post I will focus on SMFR techniques for the upper body. All the same important points apply: good form/body engagement, the Do’s & Don’ts and the Benefits. If you need a reminder check out the info in Part 1.

Let’s dive right in.

Upper Body

  • Back (upper and mid) with the Peanut: You can use the foam roller and the peanut for this area of your back. When using the peanut, place it on your mid back just
    photo credit: Melissa Karen Photography

    below your shoulder blades. The 2 tennis balls within the peanut should rest on either side of your spine. If you have never done any Self Myofascial Release work before, I wouldn’t recommend starting with using the peanut on your back, this is because it is hard to moderate how much of your body weight is weighted onto the peanut while rolling. But once you get used to rolling, I highly recommend it! Back to using the peanut on your back muscles….once you have the peanut in place, just below your shoulder blades, hug your arms across your chest and push into your feet to slowly roll the peanut up your spine to just below neck. Do 2-3 rolls up and down and then hug the other arm on top and roll another 2-3 times. Other arm options for this are hands behind the head holding the weight of your head as you roll up and down.

  • Back (upper and mid) with the Foam Roller: When using the foam roller, the same
    photo credit: Melissa Karen Photography

    two arm options can be used: hugging or behind your head. Roll the same area, from just below your shoulder blades to just below your neck. When you are using the hugging yourself method, tilt your body at a very small angle so that the foam roller is moving over the musculature just next to the spine and not directly over the spine. Then switch which arm is crossed on top and do the musculature on the other side of your spine. When holding your hands behind your head, hold the weight of your head in your hands and keep the back neutral or a little bit curled when performing this SMFR technique.

    • More mobility options for your back with the Peanut: Place the peanut just below your shoulder blades (as you did before when rolling) and then lay on top of the peanut and let your entire body rest on the floor-creating a slight arch in your back around the peanut. Breathe deeply 2-3 breaths and then move the peanut up one segment of your vertebrae and repeat the relaxing over the peanut and the breathing. Repeat for the length of your spine from the base of your shoulder blades to just below your neck. This is a great exercise for creating more mobility in your upper spine-great for increasing upper back hyperextension for backbends.
      • More mobility options for your back with a Foam Roller: Lie as you were before with the foam roller across your back, but this time let your back arch
        Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

        (or hyperextend) over the foam roller. You also want to keep your hips low to the floor. Some people will be able to have their hips on the floor and their head on the floor as they do this rolling and others will be able to have their hips low, but their head wont reach the floor and that’s ok, just know your are trying to arch the upper back over the foam roller while your hips stay low. This is promoting more mobility in the upper spine. Mobility we tend to lose with all the sitting and flexing forward we do in our daily lives. Reminder, keep the hands supporting the head so the neck doesn’t have to support the weight of your head-that’s a big load for your neck and not good for it.

  • Lats: This is still part of your back, but it’s also a bit of the side of your torso. It’s the area under your armpit. You’ll lie on the foam roller and then tip  your torso to
    photo credit: Melissa Karen Photography

    about 45 degrees, and even some more than that. When using SMFR on this area make sure to roll only to just above your floating ribs or the spot that corresponds with the base of your shoulder blades. This ensure you don’t roll over any bones and has you staying with the meaty part of your Lat. You can roll up and down, but I also like to start with the roller just below my armpit an tilt from my side body towards my spine and go in and out like that to focus on my Lat and some of my rotator cuff muscles-so you can also give that a try.

    • More options for lats: This area can also be rolled with a tennis ball. It can be done standing against a wall or lying on the ground. Lying would be more intense, so if you are new to SMFR techniques your may want to start standing against a wall. Using the tennis ball can also help get into some of the rotator cuff muscles and really pin point some of the small areas of tightness.
  • Pecs: You can use the foam roller or a tennis ball. With a tennis ball you can roll against the wall or on the floor. I find it easier using the wall. Place the ball just below the the front of your shoulder. Roll in a diagonally motion from near your shoulder towards your sternum (breast bone). You can also do a bit of rolling in front of your armpit. Be careful not to go into the armpit. It has a big nerve bundle (your brachial plexus) close by and you don’t want to roll over it with the ball or the foam roller. If you do you’ll know it, it’ll feel nerve-y or zing-y. If you do accidentally roll over the nerve bundle, that’s ok, but you don’t want to continually roll over it.  Using the foam roller for this area is done by lying on the
  • Upper Trapezius: Using the tennis ball, you can use it in two separate places on
    my partner,

    your upper trap. First, as is pictured here, you can lean against the wall or floor with the ball to one side of your spine and move your body from side to side to roll from near your spine out towards the top of your shoulder-staying with the muscles and not rolling over the spine of the shoulder blade or any other bones. Another way to SMFR the traps is to on the top of your shoulder-in the meaty part near your neck and lean into a door frame. This would be a bit more sustained pressure in that area then rolling the ball around.


As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment or to email. If you liked this post feel free to leave a comment saying so or share it with a friend.

Be Well,


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1 thought on “Foam Rolling for Flexibility (and other Self Myofascial Release techniques) Part 2

  1. Pingback: Geekery: Relative Stiffness and the Warmup (part deux) | Get Circus Strong

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