Get Abs with a Foam Roller
- DAN NORTH
- Abs and Core
Foam rollers aren’t just for dry humping the floor while you scroll through Instagram. They’re a great tool for building a stronger core.
You don’t need a ton of space or time, either. So what’s not to love?
I’ve always been somewhat of a core guy, mainly because:
- Anyone and everyone can benefit from core training.
- It’s return on investment is huge (lots of benefits).
- It tends to be an afterthought in most programs (we’ve all been guilty of pumping out some half-ass sit-ups before strolling to the change room).
- It’s usually trained incorrectly (remember all those sit-ups?).
So, check out these seven core exercises you can do with nothing but a foam roller.
(Don’t worry, we’ll put em all together into a workout at the end.)
1. REVERSE CRUNCH
Grab a heavy ass kettlebell and set it up behind your head. Laying on your back, squeeze the roller with your legs and hold on to the kettlebell.
Keep your ribs drawn down (think bracing before getting punched in the stomach) and bring your knees up to your chest.
Sloooowly return back to your starting position keeping as much tension in your core as possible (you’ll get more out of this exercise if you slow things down during the eccentric/lowering phase).
2. AB ROLLOUT
Ah, the rollout. A classic.
Get on your knees with both hands on the roller. Push your hips forward so your torso and thigh angle are in a straight diagonal line.
Get a slight posterior pelvic tilt and squeeze your butt to keep your lower back flat (think sad dog tucking it’s tail…opposite of J-Lo butt).
Keeping your core and glutes engaged, move the roller forward one hand at a time. The further out you go, the greater the demand on your core. Only go as far as you’re able to while keeping all of the tension in your core with no stress in your back whatsoever.
If you feel anything in your lower back, that’s your body’s way of telling you your core isn’t supporting your spine. So only go as far as you can with no pain in your back.
Fuck this one is hard.
Unstable surface training (think Bosu ball stuff) gets thrown around and beaten up a lot. Usually because people are trying to deadlift on unstable surfaces and blowing out their knees instead of using them in a practical setting.
For planks, the foam roller is amazing.
Stack your shoulders above your elbows and keep full body tension. You’re going to need it.
4. HALLOW PLANK
Hallow planks aka “banana planks” are awesome. Hold a roller in your hands to add some extra resistance.
Keep your lower back pressed against the floor throughout the entire set with your ribs drawn down (remember…think bracing for a punch to the gut).
The further you stretch your arms back, the greater the demand on your core.
To make it easier, bend your legs.
5. SINGLE LEG REVERSE PLANK
Your core isn’t just the mirror muscles you see when you’re checking yourself out in between sets. The muscles of the lower back and glutes can also be classified as part of the core. And this exercise is a posterior-chain massacre.
Drive your elbows into the floor with one foot up on the roller.
Extend your hips up to the ceiling and hold for 20-30 sec each leg.
6. FORWARD PLANK REACHES
Your core isn’t designed just to create movement, it’s also used to resist it.
Plank reaches is a great exercise to train your core to stabilize your torso to resist rotation.
Get into a low plank position on your elbows with the roller positioned in front of you. Reach forward and touch the roller one arm at a time, keeping your lower back flat.
For better balance, have your feet positioned wider and squeeze your glutes to keep your lower back flat (think balancing a glass of water of your back).
7. OVERHEAD MASON TWIST
Reach overhead and keep your arms locked. Stay strict with your rotation.
You want to rotate at the torso with your head following the roller as you turn.
The biggest mistake during mason twists is to just flail the arms back and forth with ungodly speed to finish the set as fast as possible. Doing this kinda defeats the purpose of the exercise.
Try doing overhead mason twists. They are damn tough but damn good.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Let’s put everything together into a workout.
Note: You can organize the above exercises countless ways. The below workout is just an example of a routine that I’ve found effective as a finisher to my workouts.
Do 2-3 rounds of the following with 60-90 sec rest between rounds:
A1. Ab Rollout x 5
A2. Plank x 20 sec
A3. Hallow Plank x 20 sec
A4. Single Leg Reverse Plank x 20 sec each leg
A5. Overhead Mason Twist x 5 each side
A6. Forward Plank Reaches x 5 each side
A7. Reverse Crunch x 10