Pilates Foam Roller Exercises and a Full Body Workout
The foam roller.
It seems so innocent, laying there in the corner of your gym, fitness studio or physical therapy clinic.
You may have even asked someone in the past, “Hey, what do you do with that thing?”
I’m guessing your trainer or therapist had an evil gleam in their eyes as they brought over the foam roller and showed you exactly what torture you can inflict on your body with it.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
The foam roller is a vital part of the work I do with my physical therapy and Pilates clients, as well as the fitness and health program I use for myself.
It sits in our living room, and hardly a day goes by that you can’t find either myself or my husband in some strange stretching position on the foam roller.
I’ve found myself in hotel rooms, tight and sore from traveling and sitting too long in meetings, longing for a good session on my foam roller.
It’s really that good.
When used regularly, it can become one of the best tools you have to keep your muscles healthy and supple.
If you don’t have a foam roller, purchase my favorite one here. The difference between white and black is the density. The black one is a little more firm. So if you are brand new to the foam roller or you are sensitive to massages in general, get the white one. If not, go for the black.
There are hundreds of exercises and stretches you can do with the foam roller, and I’ve been known to teach entire Pilates classes using the roller for an extra challenge!
You may also know about the amazing massage benefits of the foam roller. It acts as a myofascial release tool, and helps to improve muscle and soft tissue mobility.
Basically, if you have tight IT bands, you NEED a foam roller.
If you aren’t totally sold yet on the fact you need foam roller exercises in your life, here are a few more benefits:
1) Trigger point release
Trigger points are specific painful areas within a muscle or muscle fibers. It is important to loosen and eliminate trigger points when possible so that compensatory patterns don’t evolve and surrounding tissues stay healthy. Rolling with the foam roller can help release trigger points, keep the surrounding musculature loose and break up any adhesions that have built up over time.
2) Increased blood and lymphatic flow
Our body should have a constant movement and flow of blood and fluid. With injuries or constant sitting, there can be a stagnation of this fluid movement. Healthy muscles depend on a constant supply of fresh circulation and blood. Foam roller exercises can help flush out toxins and bring in healthy fluid to different parts of your body. With massage and foam rolling, you are literally rinsing out toxins in your body!
3) Improved muscle control and strength
The foam roller is a dynamic piece of equipment that moves. When you use it, you have to control that movement and your muscles are challenged in a completely different way. If you are bored with your workouts or looking for something to mix it up, this is the perfect solution.
4) Increased core strength
Foam roller exercises add an entirely different dynamic to your workout. You need to use your abdominal muscles and postural muscles to stay balanced on the roller and maintain correct positions. The roller will help increase your confidence in your posture and your core stabilization.
5) Improved flexibility
Foam rolling does not replace traditional stretching, but can be an amazing adjunct to reach the muscles that are missed during your stretching routine. The iliotibial band (ITB) is a dense band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the upper leg. Most runners and cyclists get very tight in this area, and a tight ITB can lead to hip pain and knee problems. It is very difficult to stretch the ITB in the traditional sense, but the roller is the perfect tool to loosen this tight tissue. The piriformis is another muscle that can be hard to reach through traditional stretching. You might feel that you stretch and stretch and can’t quite hit the right point. The roller, on the other hand, can be placed exactly where you feel tight and can be used very specifically in that area.
Here is an amazing, 13 minute full body Pilates workout using the foam roller. It will tone your abs, legs and arms, while also giving you some amazing stretching and opening.
It’s perfect when added to the end of a cardio workout, or simply on its own! Enjoy the challenge of these foam roller exercises.
Remember to always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, and always stop right away if you have pain.