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High Rollers

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High Rollers

In the depths of winter, your indoor exercise routine may have become repetitive. Foam roller exercises offer an alternative option with relaxing benefits.

In the depths of winter, your indoor exercise routine may have become repetitive. Both your body and your mind are calling out for variety. Foam roller training offers an alternative exercise option that provides strengthening, balancing, and relaxing benefits.

If you’ve never seen foam rollers, they resemble the noodles that are used in pools but are larger in diameter and shorter in length. The rollers can be used full size or can be cut in half for the beginner.

They easily fit into any workout program and can be carried to the gym or the office for a midafternoon workout or massage. A roller can be used as a bench for traditional strengthening exercises, as one can stand, kneel, sit, or lie on a roller for additional core strength and balance.

All About Balance

The roller can help awaken the unity of the mind and body by necessitating the use of active muscle strengthening to maintain balance on an unstable surface. In passive muscle strengthening the body goes through the motions of an exercise without conscious thought, such as bending and straightening the arm while holding a dumbbell. However, active muscle strengthening uses the focus of the mind to increase the challenge to the body. If you’re standing on a roller and not paying attention, you’ll lose your balance and won’t be able to perform the exercises.

The results of a short-term study of foam rollers for balance training, presented in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy (2005), stated that “improvements in dynamic balance can be realized following five weeks” of training. The study participants performed partial squats while standing on semi-compressible foam rollers.

The roller exercises use the core muscles in every movement to encourage a healthy back and strong stomach. All movement originates in the core, so in order to maintain balance, the core must be engaged.

A study presented in Physical Therapy (June 2000) reported that “performing curl-ups on labile [moveable] surfaces changes both the level of muscle activity and the way that the muscles co-activate to stabilize the spine and the whole body. This finding suggests a much higher demand on the motor control system.” The roller provides a moveable surface, and the body responds by activating more muscle during the exercises.

Perform two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of the following exercises. Allow a day of rest between workouts for muscle recovery.

Curl-ups

  • Place roller vertically on floor.
  • Lay face up with the roller along the spine, head off the end of the roller.
  • Bend your knees and place the feet hip-width apart on the floor.
  • Place hands behind the head.
  • Exhale and lift the shoulder blades off roller.
  • Inhale and lower, returning to start position.

Full Body Massage

  • Place roller horizontally on the floor.
  • Lay face up with your shoulder blades on top of the roller.
  • Keep your knees bent and your hips lifted off the floor.
  • Straighten your arms overhead.
  • Using your feet in a walking movement, slowly roll the roller towards your hips, then return it to the shoulders.
  • Hold on any tight areas for 20 to 30 seconds.

Squats

  • Place roller horizontally on floor. Put both feet onto the roller, hip-width apart. Arms can be at the sides, or held out for balance.
  • Find a stable focal point to concentrate on.
  • Keeping the spine straight, inhale, and bend the knees, lowering the hips towards the floor. Lower to a comfortable level, not exceeding thighs parallel to the floor.
  • Exhale and straighten the legs, returning to start position.

Push-ups

  • Place roller horizontally on floor. Place your hands on the roller, shoulder-width apart.
  • Straighten your legs behind you, and press your toes into the floor.
  • Inhaling, bend the elbows, lowering the chest towards the floor.
  • Exhaling, straighten the arms and return to start position.
  • For beginners, place the knees on floor.
  • For added challenge, place feet on the roller and hands on the floor.
  • Remember to contract the stomach (core) muscles to aid in balance.
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