Foam roller exercises are wonderful for the body, whether you workout regularly or not. These types of movements are beneficial as they can help to relieve muscle tightness, prevent injuries, and strengthen 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; in Part 4 we learn how to build our core using a foam roller; and here in Part 5 she shows us how to improve our core and spinal stability.
Foam Roller Exercises – Part 5
Our spine should be able to move in all directions: Flexion (forward bend), extension (back bend), lateral flexion (side bend), and rotation (twisting motion). Strong abdominals will allow for increased spinal stability, therefore reducing the risk of injury.
Foam Roller Exercise 1: Plank
Setup: Begin by laying on your stomach with the top of your feet resting over the foam roller. Lift the body away from the mat, bringing your elbows under your shoulders so you are in a plank position supported on your forearms.
Keep your abdominals engaged and lift the hips away from the mat to make sure you are long through your spine and not sinking into your lower back. Engage deep into your core to hold this position starting with 10-second increments and working your way up to increasing the time as you become stronger.
Tip: Modify this movement by leaving both of your knees on the mat and then lifting one knee at a time to focus on core engagement and strength. Increase the intensity of this movement by coming up to your hands and in a full plank position (hands under shoulders). Add slow and controlled push-ups while in this plank position.
Side note: Make sure your head is always an extension of your spine (stay long through your neck) and maintain deep abdominal engagement throughout the entire movement.
Avoid if: The plank position should be avoided or modified if you are experiencing neck pain or lower back pain.
Foam Roller Exercise 2: Prone Movement
Setup: Begin by laying face down with your arms stretched overhead and hands resting on the roller, thumbs facing up to the ceiling. Slide your shoulder blades down your back and engage your abdominals.
Keeping length through your spine, inhale to lift the upper body, sliding the foam roller toward you, lifting the chest to your forward space. Keep your upper back muscles engaged, making sure that you are not placing too much stress on the shoulders or arms. Exhale to return the body back down to your starting position. Repeat this slow and controlled movement for 4-6 repetitions.
Tip: Modify this movement by performing spinal extension work on the mat without the foam roller. Leave both hands, palms facing down, on the mat and bring your elbows underneath your shoulders so you are in a position supported on your forearms. Engaging your abdominals and back muscles, slowly lift and lower the upper body into an extended position that works for you.
Side note: Extension can be a very challenging position, especially for individuals who are limited in their spinal range of motion. If performed incorrectly without proper form and control, this movement can be harmful and/or cause injury. Make sure you are fully engaged throughout your body during this entire movement.
Avoid if: This stretch involves applied pressure to the abdomen and should be avoided by those who are pregnant or anyone suffering from illness or injury where pressure on the abdomen may be contraindicated. Spinal extension in this manner should not be performed by individuals who suffer from neck or back injury or weakness.
Foam Roller Exercise 3: Seated Cross Leg Stretch
Setup: Start by sitting upright in a crossed-leg position. Place the roller horizontally in front of you and rest your hands on the roller. Lifting through your center, start to slowly press the roller away from your hips as you pull the hips back and round the spine to reach forward into a comfortable stretch.
Tip: As you reach forward, try and keep the hips down on the mat. Once you are in a comfortable forward reach, release and breathe into the stretch.
Side note: As you reach forward, keep your navel drawn into your spine and try to imagine taking a rounded shape over a ball so as not to collapse your center.
The exercises outlined above involve a great deal of spinal stability and should be performed with caution. Make sure to review the important points to remember to ensure proper form and control prior to engaging in any exercise or stretch.
As previously mentioned throughout this foam rolling series, always consult with your medical professional if you are unsure whether or not a movement is appropriate for you.
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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.