Foam roller exercises are beneficial to do for a variety of reasons, including relieving muscle tightness, preventing injuries, and even strengthening your body. Since foam roller exercises can virtually be done anywhere (at the park, at home, while traveling, etc.), all we need is a Foam Roller (and an optional Mat).
In collaboration with Tiffany Gutierrez (a PMA certified Pilates Teacher and a TRX Instructor specializing in post-rehabilitative and restorative movement on the Monterey Peninsula in California), Inspirations & Celebrations has created a new fitness tutorial series dedicated to foam roller exercises. In Part 1, Tiffany shares 4 foam roller exercises that relieve muscle soreness; in Part 2, she shows us foam roller exercises that boost flexibility and lengthen muscles; in Part 3, she teaches us how to strengthen our body by foam rolling; here in Part 4 we learn how to build our core using a foam roller. Not only does a strong core look great (think washboard abs and a defined waistline), it truly helps us do everyday activities easier.
Foam Roller Exercises – Part 4
Using foam roller exercises, you can balance your way to a stronger core! The focus of Part 4 of the Foam Roller series is to increase body core strength in order to improve balance. Our core (abs, back, and obliques) is considered our powerhouse. The stronger it becomes, the more efficiently and effectively we are able to perform our daily activities.
Foam Roller Exercise 1: Scissor Move
Setup: Begin by laying on your back with your hips resting on the foam roller. Arms are long down at your sides with your hands resting on the roller. Draw both of your knees to your chest as you adjust your hips to make sure that your pelvis is elevated so that the pubic bone is at an angle slightly above the hip bones. Draw your navel in towards your spine and your spine up towards your navel to maintain a strong center.
Reach both legs long toward the ceiling. Inhale, and then use your exhale to lower one leg long down towards the floor. Only lower the leg as far as you can without compromising your pelvic position and making sure to not let the spine arch. Keep your abdominals engaged as you continue to lift and lower one leg at a time in a slow and controlled scissor-like movement. Be mindful of creating length from the front of the hip all the way through the foot of the lowering leg, finding a long stretch into the hamstring of the leg that is reaching to the ceiling. Repeat this movement for a count of ten leg reaches on each side.
Tip: Modify this movement by bringing the legs into a tabletop position and extending one leg at a time to the ceiling. Advance this movement by challenging your balance and raising the arms long to the ceiling, keeping an open chest.
Side note: Your pelvis may feel like it wants to tilt forward as the leg lowers toward the floor. Maintain a strong center to avoid this tilting movement or work with a smaller range of motion as you lift and lower the legs.
Foam Roller Exercise 2: Single Leg Stretch
Setup: Follow the same setup up guidelines as outlined in Exercise 1 above. Instead of reaching both legs long toward the ceiling, both legs will start in the tabletop position. Begin by keeping one leg bent at the knee while reaching to extend the other leg forward and then switch. Continue this movement for a count of ten leg reaches on each side.
Tip: Advance this movement by turning your single-leg stretch into a controlled forward bicycle movement and then reverse direction. Repeat for a cycle of ten repetitions on each side, both forward and in reverse.
Side note: If you find the bicycle movement challenging, you can modify this movement by taking your legs up towards the ceiling instead of working from the tabletop leg position.
Foam Roller Exercise 3: Inversion
Setup: Follow the same setup guidelines as outlined in Exercise 1 above. Arms are long down at your sides with your hands resting on the roller. Begin by engaging your abdominals as you start to lift your hips up and away from the roller and in a very controlled movement, bring the legs over the body towards your head. Be very mindful to keep the lifted space between the thighs and the engaged abdominals which will also help keep the lower back protected. With control, lower the hips back down to the roller to your starting position.
Tip: Modify this movement by keeping the legs slightly bent or by using your hands at the low back for assistance.
Side note: If performed incorrectly without proper form and control, this movement can cause injury. Make sure you are fully engaged throughout your body during this entire movement, also making sure to not place any weight on the neck.
Avoid if: This inversion should not be performed by those who are pregnant, have Osteoporosis, high blood pressure, any form of spinal instability, or anyone who suffers from extreme back pain within any of the spinal regions.
Foam Roller Exercise 4: Standing Back Lunge
Setup: Start standing and place one foot behind you on top of the foam roller. Hands are on your hips with your hips and shoulders square to your front. Bend your front knee and reach your back leg long. Start to slowly lower into a lunge position, allowing the roller to move toward your shin. Keeping a strong center, slowly rise out of your lunge bringing the roller and your body back to starting position.
Tip: Make sure that your front knee does not go past your toes as you work into your lunge position.
Side note: The lower you work into your lunge and the further back you reach your leg, the more of a hip stretch you can create. Make sure you maintain control to keep the upper body tall as to not release too much uneven body weight into the stretching hip.
Foam Roller Exercise 5: Inner Thigh Stretch
Setup: Start by sitting in an upright position and separate the legs to place the roller horizontally in front of you. Make sure that your toes and knees are pointed up toward the ceiling. Place your hands on the roller. Lifting through your center, start to slowly press the roller away from your hips as you reach forward with a long spine to lower the chest toward the floor and into a comfortable stretch.
Tip: Once you are in a comfortable forward reach, release and breathe into the stretch. Modify your seated position by bending your knees and either anchoring with your heel or full foot flat on the mat.
Side note: Try not to let your legs internally rotate (pull the toes and knees back so that they don’t roll forward as you reach).
The exercises outlined above are designed to follow the Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 posts of this series. Make sure to review the important points to remember before you begin a new exercise.
Various health conditions and/or injuries may have different and varied contraindicated movement, depending on the individual. Always consult with your medical professional if you are unsure whether or not a movement is appropriate for you.
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For more exercise tips and tutorials from fitness experts and celebrity trainers, check out the Fitness section on Inspirations & Celebrations. Be well and stay inspired on your fitness journey!
Fitness Contributor: Tiffany Gutierrez
Tiffany is a PMA certified Pilates Teacher and a TRX Instructor specializing in post-rehabilitative and restorative movement and has been teaching and educating on the Monterey Peninsula since 2010. Having worked within various fields of movement therapies and with a background in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, she has a passion for healing through mindful movement, encouraging and challenging individuals of all levels to gradually achieve optimal performance of physical and mental fitness, health, and well-being. To learn more about Tiffany and find out where she’s teaching a class on the Monterey Peninsula, follow her on Instagram at @tiffanylaceypilates. As a fitness contributor to Inspirations & Celebrations, Tiffany shares Foam Roller exercises that help alleviate muscle tension, relieve soreness and tightness, and relax your body.