Foam rollers have long been used in rehabilitation clinics as a multipurpose tool to improve core stability, balance, proprioception, soft-tissue mobility and body awareness. Now these versatile devices are being seen in Pilates mat classes, weight rooms, athletic training centers, physical therapy clinics and yoga studios.
Foam rollers can add a new dimension to many types of workouts because they are ideal for training clients of all ages and body types. That's one reason wiry so many personal fitness trainers and group fitness instructors are starting to incorporate foam rollers into their training programs.
"Clients are always looking for a new and creative way to challenge their fitness in a group or personal training setting;' says Patti Friedman, fitness manager at the CCBA Recreation and Fitness Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Foam rollers originated as part of the Feldenkrais Method, a mind-body modality that combines theory from motor development, biomechanics, psychology and martial arts (Feldenkrais 1972). Feldenkrais practitioners use foam rollers to restore alignment, instill body awareness, improve posture and flexibility, challenge neuromuscular control and alleviate muscular tension and pain.
Today's foam rollers are either cylindrical (the full round roller) or half-moon shaped (the half round roller); the latter is simply a round roller cut in half longitudinally. Both types of rollers are lightweight and typically made of white polyethylene foam. Foam rollers vary in size, ranging from 1 to 4 feet in length and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. (For details on where to purchase foam rollers, see "Resources" on page 62.)
Both kinds of foam rollers can be used either in a group setting or one on-one. Generally, the flat side of the half round roller is used when performing more basic exercises or when introducing clients to the loam roller for the first time. Once clients have demonstrated stability on the flat side of the half round roller, they can progress to using the round side. The full round roller is more appropriate for advanced students who have mastered exercises on the half round roller.
The following sections describe how to use foam rollers for specific applications, including
* basic positioning and alignment
* core stabilization
* strength training
* balance training
Also included are specific exercises for each type of training, basic safety principles, and helpful hints for using foam rollers with special populations.
BASIC POSITIONING AND ALIGNMENT
One of the most important considerations for fitness professionals who want to incorporate foam rollers into their training programs is monitoring proper basic body positioning and alignment on the device. To execute movements safely and effectively, clients need to be taught how to use the rollers in different positions--supine, standing, seated and on all fours quadruped).
Regardless of which position is used, the lumbar spine should remain in the neutral position.
Supine Position. While a client is lying supine on a foam roller, the back should not be arched off the foam surface (in an anterior pelvic tilt) but instead should remain in contact with the foam roller throughout...