This article was originally published on March 6, 2016.
Most people know the foam roller as a great tool for self-myofascial release. This is done by rolling over certain body parts to massage the connective tissue in tight muscles. What most people don’t know is that the foam roller is a multifunctional prop that can be used to strengthen and sculpt the entire body. It is a prop that can intensify many exercises by challenging stability and increasing the angles of the body. I’ve taken a couple Pilates based mat exercises and incorporated the foam roller for an added challenge. All of these exercises target multiple muscle groups at a time for the most effective workout.
Here are 4 foam roller exercises that will sculpt your body:
1. Swan Dive– This exercise works all the muscles on the posterior side of your body, including your lats, erector spinae, glutes and hamstrings. Normally done flat on the mat, using the foam roller increases the incline of the upper body and intensifies the back workout. Pulling in your abs while doing this is a must to protect your lower back. As you dive forward, slide the arms forward with control and kick the legs up by squeezing all the muscles down your backside. The challenge is to keep those shoulder blades pulled down into your back every time you roll back up to your elbows. This posture strengthens your lats. The foam roller is a great tool for working on back symmetry. It encourages you to roll evenly, balancing out the muscles on either side of your back. Do two to three sets of five and go into child’s pose after each set to stretch the lower back.
2. Knee Stretches– Strengthen the rectus abdominus and obliques with this major ab burner! Start in a pushup position with the foam roller right below your kneecaps. I started on the side, stacking my legs to work the oblique first but you can do any combination and start center if you prefer. Making sure not to move your upper body position at all, use your abs to pull your knees in towards your chest. Be careful not to make this a hip flexor workout by just moving your legs in and out. It’s your abdominals that are moving your legs. Keep your hips down the same level the entire time to target the abs. I count one rep as doing the right, middle and left side. Do 20 reps.
3. Leg Pull with Narrow Push Ups– The narrow push up works the upper body, but it requires strength in the entire body as you are holding a single leg plank as well. With the foam roller underneath the legs there is more weight placed on the upper body to sculpt the arms and chest. Keeping the abs tight to hold the plank position, lift one leg up and drop down into a pushup. When doing narrow pushups, the shoulders must be over the wrists and the elbows bend in towards the body. Proper alignment is crucial to prevent shoulder injury. If these are too difficult, a wide pushup can be done instead with the hands wider than the shoulders on the ground. Do two to three sets of three on each leg.
4. Shoulder Bridge with Single Leg Lifts– Sculpt your glutes and hamstrings with this move. Placing the foam roller under your feet challenges your pelvic stability and increases the incline of your bridge. Place the arches of both feet on top of the foam roller and lift your hips up. Make sure your hips are level and square. Keep this position as you lift one leg up into the air. Flex your foot as you lower the leg down for three counts and then point your foot as you kick it back up for a dynamic stretch. Your hips will want to move and shift while the leg is going up and down, but to stabilize, you must try to lift the hips as the leg is lowering. Do 10 on each leg. I added in an extra hamstring burnout at the end here. With the arches of both feet on the roller, keep those hips up as you move the roller back and forth several times, squeezing the inner thighs and the glutes. Knock yourself out on these to exhaust the muscles. Your backside will look as good as ever after incorporating these into your workout regime!
Also by Crystal: A 2 Minute Routine That Will Tighten And Tone Your Abs
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Video: Crystal Chin