Use the foam roller in creative, progressive ways for a full class.
Classes that use the foam roller have evolved over the past few years. With a little creativity, this piece of equipment—which comes in several varieties, from cylindrical to flat-bottomed—offers functional programming opportunities. Workout possibilities include self myofascial release, stretching, balance work, strengthening, posture improvement and cardiovascular exercise. The following drill-based workout focuses on expanding the mind and moving the body through a variety of challenges and progressions.
Format: cardio, balance and strength drills
Total Time: 60 minutes
Equipment needed: foam rollers
Music: Choose music that falls in the range of 128–130 beats per minute.
To prepare the body for exercise and get your class ready for using the equipment, perform each of the following moves once.
Hold roller vertically and
- step side to side
- perform a figure eight
- squat down and up
- squat laterally
- lunge side to side.
Hold roller horizontally and repeat this sequence (on lunge side to side, place roller on floor in front of body).
This section focuses on strength, power, balance and cardiovascular gains.
With roller lengthwise in front of body on floor, perform 2–3 sets of 8 repetitions per move (modify if alignment and form start to suffer).
Lunge. Move side to side, touching far sides of roller with opposite hand. (This engages the transversus abdominis muscles and works the core as well as the lower body.)
Lateral Skate Hop. Start with wide side-step touch. Pick up energy and jump laterally (jump wide, not high).
Jack Squat. In jack position, jump legs as wide as roller is long.
Squat Jump. Do series of 4 jumps, squatting lower with each one (high, low, lower, lowest). On lowest jump, try to touch roller.
Squat Jump With Quarter Turn. Continue doing high to low squats, but add a directional turn to each jump. Jump front, side, front and other side.
While holding roller with wide grip, perform the following:
Chair Pose. After last squat jump, stay in squat position and simply lift roller overhead, keeping arms as straight as possible next to ears; hold for 30 seconds. Stand tall on tiptoes and reach roller to ceiling. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat as appropriate.
Squat Challenge. With roller in hands, squat, place roller on floor and stand up, reaching hands high. Squat again, this time picking up roller. Reach high and repeat.
Eve’s Lunge. Stand in lunge position with front foot on floor and back leg/foot on roller. Keeping weight on front foot, let rear leg flow back as it rolls into low lunge position. Use strength of front leg to return to standing (participants may find 8–10 repetitions are challenging).
Add the following exercises to challenge balance (2–3 sets of 8). Use roller as balance tool, held vertically on the ground in front of you or held off the ground in hands.
- one-legged squat
- one-legged calf raise
This section tests balance, strength and core coordination. Repeat the moves as appropriate for your class.
Do the following exercises while lying supine, roller under spine supporting head and lumbar region.
Hundred. Perform traditional move with legs at 90 degrees and hands on floor; work through breathing sequence (inhale 5, exhale 5).
Bridge. Execute standard move with both legs on floor, and then lift alternate legs.
Roll-up. With knees bent and feet flat on floor, take deep breath; on exhalation, slowly nod chin toward chest and “peel” spine off roller one vertebra at a time, drawing in navel. Slowly roll down, one vertebra at a time.
Alternating Leg Drop. Scissor the legs, keeping one leg at 90 degrees and the other parallel to floor but not touching it. Switch legs.
Advanced Bridge. Repeat bridge move, but with roller under feet.
Do the following while seated, holding roller at chest (make reps appropriate to class):
- V-sit with twist, touching end of roller to floor beside you
- full sit-up, lifting roller to sky
- crunch with oblique twist
In plank position, with roller under hands at shoulder height, do the following (to protect wrists, keep weight in shoulder girdle as opposed to letting weight fall onto hands):
- alternating leg lifts
- mountain climb (straight in and with a twist)
- walking hands (from floor to roller one at a time, and then from roller to floor (on-on-off-off with hands)
- reverse plank (hold position and add leg lifts)
Push back into child’s pose with roller under hands. Take 3–5 deep breaths and do the following:
- Thread the needle: with roller out front under hands and then to side, under hands (this changes the lever length and intensifies the stretch).
- Hip flexor stretch with one foot on floor and back knee on roller; roll back into deeper stretch.
- Turn on side with roller under legs, and roll gently back and forth for iliotibial band massage.
- Sit up tall with legs out straight, roller at end of feet. Reach forward and place hands on roller; use it to reach further and deepen the stretch (not everyone will be able to reach roller).
- Sitting supine, place roller under calves. Roll down slowly to buttocks. Continue until roller is at lumbar spine and then slowly roll up to shoulders, avoiding neck.
Place the foam roller beneath your spine, letting it support your head and neck down through your lower back. Close your eyes and let your hands touch the floor. Knees are bent with feet flat on the floor. Take several long, deep breaths. After a few minutes lift yourself slightly and remove the roller. Lie back down and let your body sink back into the floor.
Like many other pieces of equipment, the foam roller can progress or regress an exercise by aiding balance or intensifying the balance challenge. For some exercises and some participants, the flat-bottomed roller may be best, for safety reasons. Remember, the word functional starts with fun, so think outside that box and make your workouts dynamic and entertaining.