Beyond The Foam Roller: 11 Drills To Keep You Moving

Beyond The Foam Roller: 11 Drills To Keep You Moving

While running a warm up area for the athletes playing in this year’s Fall Classic NYC (a charity bball game to support the Boys and Girls Club of America), foam rolling was far and away our most popular station.

Foam Rolling Station at Fall Classic

Funny enough, most everyone that used the rollers still wasn’t sure what it was they did. Just that they loved how it made them feel.

Almost serendipitously, I got the chance to have Corey Beasley of teach us more about foam rolling and moving beyond the foam roller with some advanced techniques.

[box]Enter Corey[/box]

Hours of training can take its toll on your body.  Combine long hours of training with a work schedule and the body will start falling apart quickly.  Achy knees, stiff backs and painful shoulders have sidelined a lot of competitors.  In order to combat this pain and fatigue, you need to proactively use recovery techniques to help speed recovery and keep your body moving freely.

Foam rollers have gained popularity over the last few years and have been adopted by therapists and athletes alike.  People rolling around before and after workouts, but what’s it actually doing?  Is it a waste of time or a viable way to keep athletes healthy?

A few studies have shown that foam rolling can increase range of motion, prevent soft tissue restriction and speed recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness.  This is a huge positive for fighters, jiu jitsu players and other combat athletes, since the majority of them endure long, intense training sessions, multiple days a week.

“As expected, there were significant increases from pre to post exercise during both trials for fatigue, soreness, and exertion.” – Study: The Effects of Myofascial Release with Foam Rolling on Performance.

But the foam roller does have some limitations…

Because of its shape, the foam roller is less effective at working on common trouble spots in the lower leg, hips and shoulders.  Luckily, we’ve discovered a few other tools that offer some variety.

Let’s move beyond the foam rollers. There are now foam balls, bumpy rollers, and all kinds of other tools to reach every nook and cranny on our body [note: we included a few amazon affiliate links to our favorite version of the tools used in our videos below].  While some may seem silly to the uninitiated, these new tools allow us to use a variety of advanced drills to target some of your harder to reach muscles.

Grappling, wrestling and fighting can tax the muscles in your feet, ankles, hips, back and shoulders.  In order to keep you moving, we have found some specific drills to address these trouble spots.

Beyond the Foam Roller:  11 Trigger Point Drills to Combat Common Trouble Spots


Our feet take a beating everyday.  This is probably our favorite drill and can be done anywhere.  Rolling a ball along the arches can help break up tension in the foot and feels great (note, to get started with this exercise you can use a basic lacrosse ball).


Just above the achilles tendon, the soleus commonly get tight from running and moving around.  Using the small Trigger Point Quadballer, elevated on a block, we simply allow the roller to dig into the soleus and then rotate the foot in circles.  The combination of compression and movement allows the roller to do its thing.  Try a few different spots, toes in, toes out and see what you can find.

Anterior Tibialis

This is the small muscle in the front of your lower leg.  Commonly overlooked, it is commonly over worked in runners, fighters and other athletes.  On this drill, we lace our fingers around a ball, pull it into the muscle, elevate the foot and then perform small circles with the ball and our foot.  Again, combining compression with movement to target the muscle.

Quad Roller

Common foam rollers are great, but the Rumble Roller provides some variety.  Instead of simply rolling on the muscle, we lay over the Rumble Roller and twist.  This allows the bumps on the roller to work on our muscle in a new way.  The Rumble Roller is one of our favorites for the quads.

Hip Flexor/Psoas

Sitting for long periods of time, combined with jiu jitsu and kicking, can leave your hip flexors a bit stiff and immobile.  Using the foam therapy ball, allows us to get into the crease of our hip and groin to work on these overactive muscles.


This drill uses a small ball, placed in the center of the glute. We lean over onto the same side elbow and then draw the knee up toward our body. Careful on this one, it is an ‘eye opener’. We typically use a tennis ball for starters and then progress into more dense balls over time.

Erector Spinae (Back)

This drill uses two tennis balls taped together and is performed by rolling up the center of our back. The balls dig into the erector muscles along our spine, without hitting the spine directly. It’s a lifesaver for people that spend a lot of time hunched over a desk, in the car or on the couch.

Pec (Chest)

Our pec rolling drill is beneficial for just about everyone. Most of us have hunched shoulders and a tight chest is one of the main culprits.  We typically use the foam therapy ball, but you can also use a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or similar.

Lat (Upper Back)

Just like the quad, you can use a typical foam roller on the lat, but we prefer the Rumble Roller to address this muscle. As you can see in the videos, we can roll across the muscle and from top to bottom.

Shoulder 1

Using the foam therapy ball, this drill gets all of the small muscles that tie the shoulder together. Rotator cuff muscles, armpit, delts and more, do these exercises to loosen up your shoulder.

Shoulder 2

Use the Rumble Roller against the wall, the bumps dig into the delt in a unique way. I see many athletes loving this one at our facility.  Just another option for a common trouble spot.

Incorporating Foam Rolling Into Your Workouts

Be sure to try all of these drills. Starting out, you may find some of them make you feel painful and stiff, while others you might find to be unnecessary. After identifying your trouble spots, it only takes about 5-10 minutes to address these areas. Our Beyond Foam Rolling drills are a perfect pre-warm up to keep your body moving and healthy. So show up a few minutes early and be proactive. Your body will thank you for it later.

[box type=”note”]Corey Beasley has been a strength coach for 16 years, is the co-owner of Innovative Results Gym in Costa Mesa, CA and founder of , which showcases strength and conditioning programs for combat athletes.[/box]