The foam roller has been getting lots of fitness love lately. It’s long been known as a stand-out recovery tool that helps relieve tense muscles and tight fascia. Experts also recommend it as a way to warm up and get the blood flowing before a workout.
Now there’s another reason to have a foam roller by your side: It can seriously strengthen your core. “The foam roller creates an unstable surface, which means more core muscles need to work to keep you stable,” says Daniel Giordano, DPT, CSCS, co-founder and director of physical therapy at Bespoke Treatments in New York City.
Make the tool your go-to workout partner by performing these five foam roller exercises. They take the roller beyond mobility and flexibility into core-sculpting territory.
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5 Foam Roller Exercises that Work Your Core
Giordano, who also teaches foam rolling classes at Lululemon, chose these five moves to work your core from every angle. Use any roller at your gym or check out the soon-to-be-released Rove Goods portable foam roller, co-founded by Giordano, which will ship in early 2017. Perform each exercise for one minute, with a 10 second break in between and repeat for as many rounds as your time allows. Hello, favorite new ab workout!
1. Side Plank with Leg Raise
Talk about hitting every midsection muscle. You’ll get into the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques and quadratus lumborum. Plus, with the leg lift you’ll turn on your glutes and thighs. How to: Lie on your side, with your left hand on the middle of the foam roller (a). Lift your hips so they’re in a diagonal line with your shoulders and raise your right arm straight above you at shoulder height (b). Lift your right leg up to hip height, without lifting or lowering your hips (c). Return your foot back to the floor and repeat (c). Then switch sides.
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A regular push-up — or moving plank, as Giordano calls it — has nothing on this foam roller variation. You’ll definitely feel the burn trying to keep yourself steady. How to: Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the middle of the foam roller and start in a high plank position (a). Bend your elbows (as you keep them by your sides) and lower your chest as close to the foam roller as possible (b). Push back up and repeat.
3. Rolling Plank
Push forward through your core (not via your shoulders or feet) for this move that reaches your deep abdominals and spine stabilizers. How to: Lie on your stomach and place the tops of your feet on the middle of the foam roller (a). Get in a forearm plank position, elbows in line with shoulders and body in a straight diagonal line (b). Slide your body forward an inch or two, without letting your back arch or round (c). Return to neutral and repeat.
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4. Hip Raise
The trick to really targeting those abs: Keep them engaged throughout the entire exercise. You’ll also feel a nice burn in your backside. How to: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet placed on the middle of the foam roller. Arms at a crisscross on your chest (a). Keep your pelvis in a neutral position, as you lift your hips up so you’re in a straight line from shoulders to knees (b). Pause for a few seconds, then lower back down to the ground (c). Repeat.
5. Mountain Climbers
You know mountain climbers work your entire body, but especially your core. Throw in the foam roller and your abs will officially be on fire. How to: Start in a high plank position, hands in line with shoulders and placed in the middle of the foam roller (a). Quickly bring your left knee into your chest, keeping your body in a straight line. Don’t lift or lower your hips (b). Return your foot to the starting position and repeat the action with your right leg (c). Return your right foot to the floor (d). Continue alternating.