Roll with your workout
Lisa M. Wolfe
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.
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