Last year I penned a blog Foam Rollers: 4 must do exercises which focused on common ways to use your foam roller to stretch and loosen your tight, sore muscles. Today I thought we might look at another way to use your foam roller – and that is to build and improve your core stability! The unstable surface of the foam roller increases the demand on the core stabilisers. Remember these are the muscles that help to support your posture and protect your spine. Most people tend to be familiar with working their core using gym balls, so hopefully the following foam roller exercises can add some much-needed variety to your gym or home workouts!

All you need is a full length (not short) foam roller, a Pilates mat (optional) and some space on the floor. With all of these 4 exercises, try performing 15-20 reps of each. Repeat for 2-3 sets as able. Like all exercises, technique and control are more important than getting those last few reps in!

Exercise 1:  Single Leg Lifts (beginner)

This is a great beginner exercise to activate your core stability muscles. Lay back on the foam roller as pictured. Maintain your spine position on the foam roller throughout the whole exercises. Slowly lift one foot up from the floor at a time. Use your arms on the floor for some added support. Concentrate on feeling your lower stomach muscles engage throughout the exercise.

Single Leg Lifts (beginner)

Image credit: Centrework

Exercise 2:  Double Knee lifts (intermediate)

Lay with your head and spine all supported along the length of the foam roller. Place your hands on the floor for support. Lift both knees up together and slowly lower them back down to the floor. To make the exercise more challenging, try lowering your feet back to the floor but not resting them back on the floor. Remember to keep your back controlled on the roller and don’t arch your back up when your feet touch the floor.

Double Knee lifts (intermediate)

Image credit: Tips Weight Loss

Exercise 3:  Knee stretch (intermediate)

This common Reformer Pilates exercise can be modified to work on the foam roller. Keep your spine in neutral, while you move the roller up and down your shins, hinging at your hips. Use your abdominals to control the movement and the roller. You should have minimal upper body movement whilst rolling up and down.

Knee stretch (intermediate)

Image credit: Pinterest

Exercise 4: Bicycle legs (advanced)

Bicycle legs can be done on the floor without the foam roller or using long springs on a Pilates Trapeze, but this version on the foam roller will really challenge you!

Lay with your head and spine all supported along the length of the foam roller. Lift both feet up and slowly cycle your legs in the air like you are riding a bike. Make sure you don’t arch your back up when stretching your legs out. If needed, keep your arms by your side on the floor to help you stabilise, or even just fingertips to increase the difficulty level.

Bicycle legs (advanced)

Image credit: Fit Tip Daily

All these exercises can be performed on long foam rollers.

You can purchase a good quality foam roller at Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates for very competitive prices!

NB. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort whilst performing these exercises, stop and rest. The exercise may be not suitable for you and may cause you injury if you push through it. Ask your Physiotherapist for advice before continuing this or similar programs.