Foam rollers. Love or hate them, you know they’re great for reducing muscle pain. But did you know you can use foam rollers as exercise equipment?
The act of foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and gym-goers to reduce muscle soreness or over-active muscles.
As well as their SMR uses, you can get more ‘bang for your buck’ from your foam rollers by using them for exercises too. Here are three uncommon ways to use foam rollers when at the gym or at home.
Foam Roller Pushups
If you look at our Pushup Difficulty Ladder, you’ll notice that step nine is a Bosu pushup. If you’re not quite ready for that, but find steps 7 and 8 are fairly easy, you could try adding in a foam roller pushup.
This exercise is better suited to the short Grid Foam Roller, a great piece of kit that is perfect for smaller muscle release. You’ll need two of them.
Place the short foam rollers on the floor slightly more than shoulder width apart so that the long edge is pointing ‘north’ of you. Now, do a standard pushup (see the opening paragraphs of our Pushup Difficulty Ladder for form tips) with both hands resting on top of the foam rollers.
Trust us, this will challenge you to the core.
Foam Roller Bench Press
A short or long foam roller is fine for this technique, but we tend to find the shorter rollers are more comfortable.
Set yourself up for a standard bench press. However, before you begin, tuck the foam roller up your shirt so that it in the centre of your body.
Now, do your bench presses but stop when you touch the foam roller. Instead of going all the way down to your chest, this exercise forces you to stop early and press back up again. While we don’t suggest you use this technique often, it is useful (especially for heavy lifters) in that it forces you to focus on the strongest part of the lift and improve your lockout phase.
Thoracic Spine Flexibility
While foam rollers are usually used to release muscles, a long foam roller can help you to ensure your thoracic spine is flexible. Why is this important? Flexibility in the thoracic spine aids everything it is connected to, including strength and posture in your back, shoulders and deltoids.
The technique is simple. Lie down flat on the foam roller for five minutes, allowing your shoulder blades to stretch downwards and placing your hands lightly on the floor for balance, arms by your side. Want a variation to challenge your core?
Try lifting your knees off the ground until your legs are at 90 degrees to your body. Hold that position for 30 seconds then lower your legs. Repeat after 30 seconds rest and continue the ‘raise, lower’ loop until the five minutes are up. Try to focus on balancing with your core rather than your arms.
So there you have it. Three cool exercises to try the next time you grab your foam roller. Got a favourite foam roller exercise? Let us know in the comments…