// Foam Roller body blast

Achieving more in less time is crucial for time-poor clients. Efficient, effective and versatile, the foam roller could be the training tool that helps them do just that, says Helen Vanderburg.

With time being the number one barrier to exercise, the ability to help clients get more done in less time is incredibly useful when it comes to retention – and to getting new clients via referrals! The foam roller is an efficient, effective and versatile training tool, which can be used to develop strength, balance and flexibility while seamlessly integrating self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques.

The following series of exercises will flow easily with minimal transitions to help you give clients a full core strength, balance and flexibility workout.

Bridge to crunch

This exercise works the anterior and posterior core while providing SMR through the mid and upper back. Begin in a seated position with knees bent and the roller behind the back. Place the roller under the shoulder blades and bring the hands behind head. Press the heels into the floor and lift the hips just off the floor, bringing the upper body into an abdominal crunch position. From here, roll the upper back over the roller until the shoulders are lined up in the centre of the roller, at the same time lifting the hips up into a back bridge. Roll the hips back down as you crunch into an abdominal curl, keeping the hips off the floor. Repeat (photos 1 & 2).

Lateral roll out

Begin in a seated position laterally to the roller with both hands just wider than shoulder-width apart on the foam roller. Roll out until the torso is level with the floor and the elbows are just behind the roller. Press down through the forearms as you roll back up to seated. To add a greater strength challenge, extend the top leg out as you roll forward. This exercise strengthens the core with an oblique bias, as well as providing SMR through the forearms (photos 3 & 4).

Spinal extension roll out

Start in a prone lying position with the forearms on the foam roller and the legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lift up through the abdominal wall (TVA) to support the lower back. Keeping this lifted sensation in the abdominals, press the arms down as you extend the thoracic spine. Avoid compressing the lumbar spine as you extend up. Roll back to the start position. This strengthening exercise also encourages SMR in the forearms (photos 5 & 6).

Push ups

Performing push ups on the foam roller assists your clients in achieving good shoulder alignment.  In order to perform this exercise well, the hands should be placed wider than shoulder-width apart so the arms create a 90 degree angle at the bottom of the push up. The chest should line up directly over the mid line of the foam roller (photos 7 & 8).

Camel pose

This stretches the anterior body from the thighs through the torso. Most people find this exercise impossible to do on the floor and therefore never reap its full benefit. By bringing the ankles over the roller the heels are elevated, making the exercise easier to accomplish. Start with the ankles over the roller and the hips on the heels. Place your hands around the ankles. Lift the hips up as you extend the spine. Hold for five deep breaths and come out of the stretch (photo 9).

Plank tucks

From a kneeling position with ankles on the roller, bring hands to the floor in a plank position. Lift the knees off the floor and come into a knee tuck position with the tops of the feet on the foam roller. Extend the legs back as you straighten the body into a plank. Repeat and tuck the knees back in. As the legs roll out and in, the anterior lower leg will receive SMR (photos 10 & 11).

Reverse plank roll out

Going in the reverse direction of the Plank Tuck, begin this exercise seated on the floor with the ankles on the roller and the hands beside the hips. Either point the fingers towards the roller or externally rotate the shoulders so the fingers point out – whichever works best for shoulder placement. Keeping the arms straight, lift the hips up and pull them back as you contract the abdominals. Then press the legs out to a reverse plank position. From the core pull the hips back and repeat the exercise. Performing this exercise will also result in SMR through the posterior lower leg (photos 12 & 13).

Diagonal oblique curl

Begin lying lengthwise on the foam roller with hips at one end and the head supported at the other end. Extend one leg up in a vertical line or bend the knee in a table top. The same side hand as the lifted leg comes to the floor as the other hand goes behind the head. To begin the exercise, lower the lifted leg diagonally out to the side while maintaining core control. Perform an oblique curl at the same time as moving the leg back to the mid line of the body. Think opposite rib to hip. Lower back to the start position and repeat. SMR will be achieved on the erector spinae muscles (photos 14 & 15).


This exercise challenges balance and should only be performed after you are confident and comfortable standing on the foam roller. Squatting on the roller encourages maintaining the centre line of the body over the foundation during squats. Begin the exercise standing on the roller. Then sit back into the squat, keeping the chest lifted and spine neutrally aligned. Press through the feet to come back to standing. To make this exercise easier, hold onto a chair or spot your client as they squat. Standing on the roller will put pressure into the arches of the feet, releasing tension through the plantar fascia (photo 16).


Helen Vanderburg, BPE
An international health and fitness consultant, Helen is owner of Heavens Fitness Club and Fusion Fitness Training™. An elite athlete, past World Champion synchronised swimmer, honored member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the 2005 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, Helen brings a wealth of experience to the fitness industry. Visit www.fusionfitnesstraining.com for more information on this type of training.

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