If you have never tried a foam roller, you are missing out on many benefits!
Foam rollers are an inexpensive, super-versatile piece of equipment that can help you with everything from working out the knots in your muscles to sculpting an incredible set of abs faster (more about that later). In other words, if you aren’t already using one, you’re missing out on some serious benefits!
I have listed easy ways to start working a foam roller into your routine. And if you can’t find one at your gym (or simply want your own at home), check out this inexpensive one I found online: buyOnline4less
Massage Your Muscles (AKA Self-Myofascial Release)
Using a foam roller is essentially away to give yourself a deep tissue massage. By slowing rolling over various areas of your body, you’ll help break up adhesions and scar tissue and speed up the healing and recovery process after your workout.
Use it to loosen up common areas of tightness such as your outer thigh (iliotibial band, ITB), quadriceps, or upper back. Here’s how: Position yourself on top of the roll and use the weight of your body to slowly roll back and forth over it (as if you’re using a rolling pin to roll out some dough). Try not to use your arms for support, but allow your bodyweight to relax (as much as possible) over the roll.
Foam rollers work by using the body’s natural response to pressure. As you roll over tight spots or trigger points, the muscle relaxes. For especially tight spots, applying constant pressure might work better than rolling back and forth.
Need to work out a few knots in your upper back? Place the roller under your shoulder blades and cross your arms over your chest. Lift your hips off the floor and use your body weight to apply pressure on the tight area [as shown]. Hold up to 60 seconds.
Here’s a great technique to relieve tension in your neck: Lie on your back with the roller under your neck. Allow your head to rest on top of the foam roller [as shown] so that you feel a gentle pressure on your neck. You can slowly turn your head to the side, or to the side and down (aiming your chin down to your shoulder). Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.
Perk Up Your Plank or Push Up
Performing exercises on an unstable surface is a surefire way to engage more core muscles and make total-body exercises like planks or pushups even more challenging.
Place one, or both, hands on top of a foam roller during a full plank or push up, or slide your roller under your toes during either exercise. This will force your body to work harder to stabilize. To make it a little easier, start by using a half roller with a flat bottom until you’re ready for the full version.
Strengthen Your Core
Take your abs workout to the next level! By adding a foam roller, you’ll force your core to work harder to help balance your body on the unstable surface.
Try this marching crunch exercise: Lie on the roller (it should line the length of your spine), with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands behind your head, elbows out [as shown]. Lift your head and shoulders off the roller, and slowly try to lift your right foot slightly off the floor. Step it back down and switch to the left.
Continue marching your feet, alternating legs each time, for a total of 10 reps.
Tip: Try to keep your pelvic floor muscles engaged the entire time. The easiest way to do? Imagine that you really need to pee but have to hold it in.
Safely Crack Your Back
Place your foam roller on the floor and sit in front of it with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Carefully lie back and lift your hips slightly off the floor. Slowly roll your body over the roll, pushing your torso away from your feet, using your legs to guide you.
You may feel your back crack as you roll back towards your feet. Proceed with caution, and immediately stop if you feel pain. (Skip this entirely if you have any pre-existing issues with your back).