Get the Function out of Your Foam Roller

A boring warm-up tool or a new part of your workout routine?

Know how little kids make-believe a cardboard box is an airplane or a castle or some superhero’s sanctuary? Kids understand that, with a little imagination, a simple object can be many things at once.

The foam roller, for instance: Generally used to roll out areas you didn’t even know could get tight, this hard-foam tube typically gets thrown back by your gym bag after warming up. Come on now—unleash the little kid in you and work that foam roller into some exercises.

Start with core training. The favorite movement is the Dead Bug. Flat on your back, straighten your left arm out and lift your left leg to 90 degrees so that your calf is parallel with the ground. Squeeze the ends of the roller between your left hand and left foot. Keep that tension, and extend your right arm and right leg in opposite directions until they’re straight and close to parallel with the ground. Then repeat for the other side. You can also do feet-elevated side planks, which are just like normal side planks but with your feet resting on top of the roller.

Stay creative. Use the roller for balance during various exercises. Unilateral lifts often put you in positions that are foreign to your body. One of those movements that often trips people up is a rear-leg-elevated split squat. If you’re having a hard time nailing it down, just stand your roller up and use it as a crutch during the exercise.

You’re not going to be able to, nor should you, work your foam roller into every inch of your routine, but try to be inventive, try something new, and try to have a bit of fun with your simple foam roller.

Photos by LightWave / Corbis