You know to massage away your sore muscles — even your abs — with a foam roller, as it speeds up recovery time and provides relief from the aches. Additionally, though, the long, cylindrical tube can induce fatigue in your abs when you use it as a way to train your core.
Execute familiar moves on this unstable surface, kicking up their intensity to increase demand on the core stabilizers, making your entire middle, including your abs, stronger. These moves aren't for beginners — you'll need to have built a modest base of abdominal muscle strength before increasing your challenge with the foam roller.
Start With These
When first using a foam roller for training your abs, do these moves to become accustomed to the instability. Once you can breeze through all the reps recommended, add the second section of exercises to your regimen to really challenge your muscles.
1. Foam Roller Plank
Plank held on the floor effectively works the entire complex of ab, back and hip muscles that make up your core, isometrically. You hold your body rigid, balanced on your hands or forearms and tips of the toes. A foam roller adds a new dimension to plank training.
HOW TO DO IT: Get into the top of a push-up position with your shins propped up on the roller, hands or forearms on the floor. Alternatively, place your hands or forearms on the roller and your toes on the floor.
Draw your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and hold your torso in a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for 20 seconds to 60 seconds. Repeat for one to three sets total.
Use the foam roller to create greater activation for your hamstrings, glutes and abdomen.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back, with your head flat on the floor, arms alongside your hips, knees bent and feet perched on a foam roller. Lift your hips up to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
Maintain stability as you hold for two to three total breaths.Lower down and repeat for a total of five repetition.
3. Dead Bug
This move has a funny name, but there's nothing laughable about the challenge it poses to your balance.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on a foam roller placed vertically behind your back, so it extends the length of your spine and supports your head. Place your feet flat in the floor with your knees bent. Hands rest on the floor alongside your torso.
Lift your right hand and left knee to touch, then extend them out long in opposite directions and again touch right hand to left knee. Repeat 10 times total and then complete a set with the left hand and right leg.
Progress to These Moves
The following abs exercises require control, concentration and strength. Build up to the recommended set of repetitions at two or three ab workouts per week.
This move makes the foam roller plank look easy.
HOW TO DO IT: Get into plank position with your hands on the floor and your shins on a foam roller. Keep your belly pulled in tight as you bend your knees into your chest, rolling the foam roller with you.
Extend your legs and roll the foam roller back to the starting position. Work up to 10 repetitions
2. Boat Sit
Combine the abdomen-strengthening exercises of the V-sit and the crunch with a yoga Boat pose to challenge your abs in ways not possible on a gym mat alone.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit with the backs of your hips/buttocks on a foam roller placed perpendicularly to your mat. Place the hands lightly behind you for balance. Pull your knees into your chest.
Extend your legs straight, keeping them together, so that they hover above the floor. Repeat 10 to 12 times without letting your feet touch the floor for the entire set. Move slowly and deliberately.
3. Medicine Ball Rotation
A medicine ball rotation works your obliques, the sides of your abdomen. Increase activation of these and stabilizing muscles by balancing on a foam roller to perform the exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit upright on a foam roller that's parallel to your body. Your knees are bent and feet straddle the roller; hold a medicine ball in both hands at your chest.
Lean back until you feel your abs engage to keep you steady. Rotate to the right, keeping the ball centered at your chest as you move. Return to center and then rotate left. Keep alternating for 12 to 15 repetitions.