It seems the humble foam roller is having a moment in the world of health and wellness. If the last couple of years have been all about high-intensity workouts like CrossFit and the rise of luxury spin classes like SoulCycle and Flywheel, it would seem 2016 is officially the Year of the Foam Roller.
You've probably seen a stack of them in the corner of your gym, and you may have seen runners rolling their IT bands out on one. While the roller is definitely good for reducing muscle soreness and increasing range of motion and flexibility, there's a lot more you can do with a foam roller than most people think.
So, here are six things you probably didn’t know a foam roller could do for you, and six moves you can do at home to get those benefits:
1. Blast cellulite
I think there's one thing we can all agree on. No one — and I mean no one — likes cellulite. Cellulite occurs when underlying fat pushes through weakened, dry, or brittle connective tissue, also known as fascia.
This weakened connective tissue structure can be caused by gravity, aging, dehydration, a lack of movement, and poor muscle tone and poor circulation. A foam roller helps boost circulation, smooths out the fascia, rolls out congestion, flushes toxins, hydrates, and helps regenerate connective tissue. This helps reduce cellulite and improves connectivity to the underlying muscles.
2. Improve digestion
Many people are plagued with digestive issues as a result of poor diet, stress, food allergies, and other environmental factors. Using the roller not only helps smooth out "knots" in the muscles and joints, but it helps create support and calms your nervous system, improving blood flow and circulation to the organs, which benefits digestion.
3. Improve sleep
Breathing efficiently is pretty fundamental to life, and it's especially important to getting a good night's sleep and reducing stress. Sleep apnea is becoming more common, and it can affect your sleep tremendously, leaving you tired and lethargic. Using the roller improves elasticity in the lungs and rolling out can actually calm your nervous system and help you relax and breathe more efficiently at rest, which in turn helps you sleep better and rejuvenate your body and mind.
4. Boost metabolism
We're all slaves to our metabolism, but that doesn't mean we can't make changes in our lives to improve or boost it. The right diet and exercise program can really help. But once again, the roller should be an integral part of your daily program.
Why? Well, the roller can be used as a tool to get you heart rate up and help you breathe deeper, while also improving oxygen and blood circulation — which helps eliminate toxins from the body. Plus, using the roller this way helps you build lean and strong muscles, and realigning the body can dramatically improve and boost our metabolism.
5. Improve posture
Good posture is crucial to vibrant health, because the way you carry yourself is the way you're perceived by the world. If you are tight, hunched and unbalanced, that is exactly how people see you. So getting into healthy and balanced alignment and holding yourself tall is vital if you want to present your best self to those you meet on a daily basis and manifest your true desires.
Guess what? The roller can help with this, too. Using the roller improves circulation and blood flow, allowing the body to restore and align, making you taller and more confident.
6. Strengthen your core
A strong core is not just about having six-pack abs, as attractive as they might be.
Having a strong, stable core is vital for maintaining proper posture and balance. It will help you perform better in any physical activity you do, and it can help alleviate back issues. In short, a strong core underpins almost anything physical we do. Using the roller to help strengthen your core is yet another great way this versatile tool can be used as part of your everyday workout routine.
For more, check out my book Taller, Slimmer, Younger: 21 Days to a Foam Roller Physique and my site www.laurenroxburgh.com for my videos and blog!
To blast cellulite: Figure 4
Sit on the roller and reach your left arm behind you with your left palm placed on the mat for stability. Cross your right ankle over your left knee in a figure four position.
Shift your weight slightly over to the right hip/glute area and roll back and fourth a few inches in each direction.
Next, roll in circles to help increase circulation and blood flow and to reduce congestion in this area.
Repeat this movement 8-10 times on each side.
For better digestion: Roller supported inversion
Lay down on your mat, and place the roller under your sacrum perpendicular to you body. Lift your legs to about a 90-degree angle so your toes are pointing up to the ceiling. Place your hands on either side of the outer edge of the roller to make sure it doesn’t slip. The roller should remain stable throughout this exercise. Inhale as you lower the legs down a few inches maintaining stability in your spine and hips and then exhale as you raise them back up to 90 degrees.
Repeat 8 times
To improve sleep: Upper back roll
Place the roller under your back at your bra line and lay your middle back over the roller. Take your hands behind your head to support your head and neck. Using your feet to drive the move, inhale as you roll and massage up the upper back and shoulder blades. Exhale as you roll and massage down the spine to the bottom of your ribs and avoiding the lower back.
Repeat 8 times.
To boost metabolism: Shell curl
Place the roller just below the knee joints. Place your hands shoulder-width apart and make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists. Stabilize your shoulders, inhale and lengthen your spine into a slight extension to elongate the front of your core and then exhale as you start turning your tailbone under and scooping your belly while rolling the roller down your shins. Inhale and slowly resist the roller as your legs back down into the full extension position.
Repeat 8 times.
To improve posture: Snow angels
Lay on the roller the long way so that your entire spine is supported from head to tailbone. Begin with your arms out to the side with palms up and chest expanded.
Inhale deeply as you reach your arms up overhead slowly and with control, keeping them as close to the mat as possible and parallel to the floor.
Exhale completely as you draw your arms back down by your hips and gently exhale all the air out of your lungs.
Repeat 8 times.
To strengthen your core: Core stability scissors.
Lay down on the roller the long way, so that your spine is supported from head to tailbone. Place your forearms on the mat on either side of the roller to stabilize yourself.
Curl your spine up over your ribs. Bring your knees over your hips to engage your low belly. Engaging your core inhale and extend your left leg our to a 45-degree angle and exhale as you switch legs.
Carefully control your movements here, remaining mindful of which muscles are being used and focusing on your breath and abs.
Repeat this movement eight to ten times.