So, last time I showed you a few ways you could use a foam roll to sort out some muscular niggles. Don’t forget, those were only a selection of ideas – don’t be afraid to get inventive! If you have a muscular ache, and can work out a way to use the foam roll to apply pressure to it, give it a go.
This week, though, I thought it might be good to go through a few exercises that you could use to help your core strength. A little warning note – these are not easy, and unless you have already done a basic core strength program you are unlikely to be able to manage them. But if you can manage them, they are really fantastic for taking you to that next level.
So first, there’s the one that looks really easy. Lie on the foam roll, with it running along the length of your spine. Take your arms out to either side without letting them rest on the floor, then tense those core muscles and slowly lift your feet up off the floor.
If you’ve got the hang of this level, there are ways to make it harder – you can raise your arms so your fingers are pointing at the ceiling, and you can also work on straightening out your legs so that you are lying in a straight line. No pictures of those postures because…ahem…I can’t do them! (Yet – I am working on it!)
Another good exercise for balance and core strength is learning simply to stand on the foam roll. In the first place, you can stand on it so that your feet are across it. Tense those core muscles to help you balance and keep a slight bend in your knees. To start with, it is often easier to also bend at the hips so that you are in a slight squat position – keep your back straight though! Once you can manage this on 2 feet, try standing on one leg.
Once you’ve got the hang of that, turn the foam roll so that your foot is running along the length. Standing on one leg in either of these foam roll orientations is not only good for everyone’s core strength, but it is also really fantastic advanced rehabilitation for anyone who has sprained their ankle. A lot of work needs doing after an injury like that (although it is very rarely done, as the pain and swelling goes away and people forget about it) and once that has been started these exercises play a vital role in preventing those repeat-injuries that often occur with ankle sprains.
Finally we have a fantastic exercise for people who have been working on one-legged squats and want to take it to the next level. With the proper technique, squats are a great way to improve gluteal strength and provide a solid framework for your lifting technique, and one-legged squats are just one step harder. As it says on the tin, you stand on one leg and perform the same squat manoeuvre. Bringing in the foam roll really adds core strength and balance into the mix, as you stand on the foam roll to perform the squat! Initially, you can work on simply standing on the roll and touching the heel of your free foot to the floor. You can then progress to the full squat movement.
So there you have it. Some far-from-simple exercises that can really help you become a member of the elite where core strength is concerned – and in the interests of back pain prevention, that’s where we should all want to be!