Foam Rolling: Whole-Body Warmup Part 3: Spine, Neck & Shoulders

Part 3 of 3
By Dr. Ben Kim
Dr. Ben Kim
Dr. Ben Kim
December 15, 2016 Updated: December 18, 2016

Foam rolling is an effective and gentle way to warm up your whole body. It also helps release tension and aids recovery from intense exercise by facilitating the removal of lactic acid from the muscles.

If you’re just doing a general warmup, you can do around five passes with the roller on each location. If you’re recovering from an intense workout and your muscles are fatigued, you might want to do 10 to 15 passes, or more. I recommend lingering on any areas that are tender.

This warmup is suitable for beginners.

(Infographic by Inga Longauerova/Epoch Times; Photo by Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Middle and Upper Back

Lie on your back and place the roller a bit higher than the lower back region. Slowly work your way up the mid- and upper back (thoracic spine) to your neck. The reason to start here is that many people have floating ribs in their lower back that can be very sensitive to pressure, so it’s good to start above these.

Upper Back

When you get up to your shoulder blades, place one arm across your chest and lean over to the same side to roll the side of the spine. Repeat on the other side. This targets the muscles that surround your spine right up to the base of the neck.


Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Place your neck on the foam roller. Gently roll your head side to side.


Lie on one side with your arm stretched above your head and the roller under your armpit. Slowly rotate your torso back and forth (your arm will rotate too) so that all areas of your armpit make contact with the roller. The roller does not move in this position. This movement targets parts of your rotator cuff, latissimus dorsi (lat), posterior deltoid, and other muscles necessary for functional shoulder movement.

Back of Shoulders

From the same position, bend your elbow at 90 degrees and rotate your body so you can gently roll the very back of your shoulder. This targets more of the posterior deltoid, which helps extend the shoulder, and your infraspinatus muscle, which is part of your rotator cuff.

Upper Arms

From the same position, next bring your elbow toward your trunk and roll the outside of your upper arm from the top to the middle. This targets the areas where the deltoid inserts into the humerus, which are areas that tend to be tight.

Sides of Chest

Finally, stretch your arm out again and, with the roller under your armpit, roll from the middle of your armpit to several inches below it. This targets the area where your lat attaches to the humerus. The lats are key for many movements of the arms. 

Read part 1 and 2 here:

Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Canada. His primary interest is sharing resources and ideas on self health care. He can be reached via his website,

Dr. Ben Kim