When you reach for the foam roller to smooth out your muscles, you might be a little too aggressive for your own good. Take a tip from trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., and chill out.

Instead of jumping onto the cylinder and grinding your muscles into oblivion as you roll up and down, Atkins offers a gentler, side-to-side approach.

"By moving side-to-side, you’re rolling across the tissues versus up-and-down, creating a cross-friction roll," Atkins says. "The side-to-side approach allows a more significant disruption of the fibers. Think of it as using a rolling pin to roll up and down the length of (dry) spaghetti - or you could roll perpendicular to the noodles, allowing an excellent opportunity to break them up."

To make the most of the move, you'll definitely need a foam roller. If you don't have one handy, check out this vibrating option from Triggerpoint, or any of these for a good fit.

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  • Lay face down on the foam roller, with the placement in the middle of your thigh (on the quad muscle).
  • Instead of rolling up-and-down along your quad, rotate to roll side-to-side (or east to west).
  • Slowly make your way up the entire length of the quads.
  • Apply the same principles to the calves.

Try your new foam rolling technique before or after workouts to loosen up, or whenever your lower body feels particularly tight. Aim for 12 to 15 side-to-side reps on both legs for both the quads and calves.

Want to learn more from Atkins? Check out our full series full of her tips, Try Her Move.