The foam roller is a magical tool used to ease muscle tightness or soreness before or after workouts. But not everyone knows that a foam roller can also be used during a workout to tone and strengthen muscles.
General benefits of the foam roller include improving range of motion and muscle flexibility and -- of course -- melting away tension and tightness like a massage does. It's a relatively cheap tool (about $20) that you can use at home for free challenging workouts. Because it's not a stable surface, working out with a foam roller means you have to use more muscles continuously to stabilize your body.
Body alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh, who has a book about foam rolling coming out in February, believes that the foam roller can "completely transform your body, core and posture," she told The Huffington Post.
"Most people think of it as a tool to roll out tight IT bands," she said, referring to the ligaments that run along the outside of a person's thighs. "But the roller can be a total body workout tool and actually mimic many of the moves on the Pilates reformer."
Here are 7 moves to try on your own, with either a short or long foam roller. Roll on with your bad self:
1. Arm Roll Outs
Why: This move tones your arms and lower back. It also improves posture.
How: While on your stomach, place the foam roller just above your elbows with your arms extended long. Roll up all the way and bring your forearms in to work the triceps. Repeat 8 times.
2. Tricep Dips
Why: Tones your triceps.
How: With knees bent, place the foam roller behind you with your fingers facing forward. If this bothers your wrists, you can also try using fists. Bend up and down to work your arms. Repeat 10 times.
3. Hamstring Curls
Why: Tones the hamstrings and glutes.
How: On your back, place the roller under your feet. Lift your hips up into a bridge and hold. Roll your feet in and out to work your hamstrings. Repeat 8-10 times.
4. Butterfly Lifts
Why: Works your glutes as well as your inner and outer thighs.
How: On your back, place the soles of your feet together and rest your ankles on the foam roller. Drive your hips up and down. Repeat 6-8 times.
Why: Challenges core stability while working lower abs and shoulders.
6. Shell Curls
Why: This is a full abs workout, plus you get some arm toning because you're balancing in a pushup position.
7. Rolling Lunges
Why: Full leg workout, including quads, hamstrings, inner thighs and glutes. Plus, your muscles get more work because you are working to balance.