If you want to tighten your core, there’s always the option of crunches, planks, and oblique twists. But when you’re in the mood for trying something new, break out the foam roller for a new way to work your abs.
Foam rollers, if you’re not familiar, kind of look like larger, firmer pool noodle. Most often, foam rollers and their tougher counterpart, trigger point rollers, are used to decrease recovery time after an intense workout. The roller helps to release fascia, which is a muscle’s soft connective tissue that provides support and protection. Overtime, be it from overuse, no use, or an injury, the tissue can be thicken and become inflamed. Mobility-based roller exercises can help to release this tissue, allowing for better ranger of motion.
While foam rollers may have roots in mobility and muscle healing, that doesn’t mean they don’t have other uses. After all, if you’re going to purchase a piece of exercise equipment, you want to get the most bang for your buck. And with the following ab exercises, now you can.
Scissor Kicks: Lie on the foam roller face up, with the roller parallel to your spine. With bent elbows, place your forearms on the floor at your sides. Lift your chest slight upward, so that your abs are engaged. Hold your legs straight out in front of you, and one at a time, raise your leg to just below 90 degrees with your body. Lower slowly to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg. Switch back and forth between legs for all reps. If this is too difficult to start, keep one foot on the ground and complete all the leg raises on one side before switching to the other.
Plank Holds: For a variation on a standard plank hold, use the foam roller beneath your toes. Start in a high push-up position, where arms are straight and hands are below the shoulders. Your core should be tight and lifted, and your toes standing on top of the foam roller, which is placed perpendicular to your body. Start by holding this position for 30 seconds, then take a 30-second break.
Balanced Glute Raises: Lie on the foam roller face up, with the roller parallel to your spine and your butt at the end of the roller. Bend your knees and plant your feet close to your butt. Lift your toes off the ground, and push into your heels to raise your pelvis up toward the ceiling. Lower slowly down to finish one rep. This exercise will target your hamstrings and glutes, but because you’re balancing on the foam roller, your core will be engaged helping to build strength in the midsection.
Plank Curls: Start in a plank position, where your hands are on the floor beneath your shoulders. Instead of your toes on the floor, as if in the top of a push up, place the foam roller beneath your knees so that your shins are resting on top. With flat back and tight core, pull your knees into your chest, raising your hips as you roll. Slowly roll back out to the start position to complete the first rep.
Balanced Boat Pose: Sit on your foam roller with the roller position perpendicular to your body. Place your feet on the ground in front of you with knees bent. Find a balancing point where your hip joints are on top of the roller. Lean back so that with straight arms you can hold just above your knee creases. Once steady, release your arms and keep them straight out from your shoulders. If this feels to easy, work on raising and straightening one leg so that your leg is parallel to the ground. Lower slowly to the ground and repeat on the opposite side.
Complete the reps of each of the following exercises back-to-back without stopping. Once all are complete, take up to a 2-minute rest, then start again. Complete three rounds of this foam roller ab circuit.
- Scissor Kicks, 8 reps, each leg
- Plank Holds, 30 seconds
- Balanced Glute Raises, 12 reps
- Plank Curls, 12 reps
- Balanced Boat Pose, 30-second hold OR 8 leg lifts, each leg