Pilates Props: Foam Roller

What is a foam roller?

Foam rollers are long, cylindrical-shaped tubes and are usually made from a type of foam called EVA. These humble props were first packing material before they were adopted as an exercise tool by physical therapists. Although the diameter is usually around 6 inches, the length, density and texture of the foam roller vary. Some of them have raised, wave-like ridges, while others are covered in a pattern of small bumps. However, in Pilates, we use the smooth foam roller which is devoid of texture.

The density of the foam roller can also vary. Industry-standard colours are black for the densest, blue for the medium density rollers and white for the ones made of the softest material. When it comes to using the roller for balance, the soft roller is avoided as it will not challenge stability. But for myofascial release the black ones are used usually for athletes, blue ones can be used by everyone in general, and the white ones are reserved for active agers and those with certain physical issues or conditions.

What is it used for?

As the roller is a moving platform that lets you literally roll with it, it’s uses are three-fold.

Second, it is used for stretching and increasing mobility in joints. If you have a longer foam roller, you can lie on top of it by aligning your spine from head to the tailbone along its axis. This position increases the range of mobility of the shoulder joint complex and allows you to actively mobilise and stretch your upper extremities. The same works for the hip joint when you place the foam roller underneath your pelvis. It automatically relaxes the lower back and enhances the stretches in your lower extremities. You can also place it under your forearms for the Swan and use the rolling movement of the foam roller to increase the range of the movement.

Exercises with a Foam Roller

Once you have learnt about the versatility of this prop, you will never stop using it. Check out this video to learn some simple exercises with the foam roller.

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