If you’re a conscientious exerciser, you should know your way around a foam roller.
Foam rollers are a ubiquitous tool at most gyms for good reason. The versatile cylinders can be used to massage out all kinds of muscle pain, from your back to your knees, either as a pre-workout warmup or a post-exercise cool down. The myofascial release foam rollers provide is an important component of maintaining healthy joints and muscles.
But that’s not the tool’s only potential use. If you’re creative with your movements, your foam roller can also serve as a handy training aid and a resistance tool.
“I love that foam rollers can be used to make some exercises harder and other exercises easier,” says Sean Garner, trainer at Anatomy 1220 in Miami.
According to Garner, foam rollers are lightweight and make for a versatile training tool when you want to take your workout outside without bringing the entire gym. Or maybe you’re sore from a heavy lift and want to perform a lighter recovery workout to get the blood flowing.
If you don’t have a foam roller handy, check out this vibrating cylinder from Triggerpoint Performance, or any of these standout options.
Check out the video above for a dozen creative uses for a foam roller. Here are a few of Garner’s favorites:
Pistol squat progression
This is a great way to modify this very challenging lower-body exercise for those who may not yet be ready to do it in free space. You’ll need a taller roller to pull this one off.
Offset pushup and offset rolling pushup
These will force you to stabilize an offset load on an unstable platform, says Garner. These exercises are similar in that the offset positioning of the hands forces one arm to work harder than the other. Rolling the foam roller away from the body during the rolling pushup increases the level of difficulty as the core and pushing arm have to work harder to keep the body square.
Single-leg deadlift progression
Think of the roller as a training wheel — again, you’ll need a tall one to pull this off. You can use a foam roller to help with balance as you progress to doing the move in free space. Apply less and less pressure to the roller until you no longer need it.
The rollout plank is a twist on a core classic. Rolling the roller away from your body and back forces your abs, back, and shoulders to work overtime to prevent yourself from collapsing.
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