Reasons to love your roller! Do you have a roller that you bought during lockdown for classes and now you never use it? I want to give you some ideas for home practice so you can benefit from having such a fantastic piece of equipment at home.
Now, to be honest, rollers are not all my clients favourite prop for class, they can be a bit painful to press tight muscles onto. If your skin is sensitive, pressure into the roller can be very unpleasant. However knowing the moves that give good release without discomfort is what this article is all about.
The roller also offers us some great ways to challenge our balance. This can be frustrating, but as long as you are working safely the benefits of the challenge usually win any doubter over. Again knowing the right moves and how to get the right level of challenge for you makes all the difference.
In this blog I have selected a few of my true favourite exercises on the roller. These exercises do not put pressure on sensitive body parts and they challenge balance in the safest ways.
As a Pilates and movement teacher, the roller is one of my favourite class props and here is why:
Reason 1 – Muscle release
As mentioned above, the roller is often used as a muscle release tool. In my view (and evidence supports this) this can often be extremely painful and sometimes increase tightness (think rolling the side of your body with all your body weight on the roller).
I like to use the roller to gently coax tension out of specific muscles. I focus on the Glutes, shoulders, calfs and pelvic floor. These are all areas where people tend to have gripping habits. The moves I recommend below give you full control of pressure into your muscles so you are not bruising your muscles.
First up are our glutes, notoriously used for tucking and gripping to support upright posture. To work towards a better movement pattern sit on the roller and roll over it, try this sequence below to release and lengthen your glutes.
Our shoulders hold tension, here is a cheeky shoulder release on your roller. You’ll know when you are in the right spot cos you’ll FEEL it!! after this exercise you should feel freer in your shoulders.
Calfs do a lot of work through the day. We often rely on them more than we should. Roll them out to achieve more mobility in your ankles, resulting in a deeper squat and a longer stride. Remember to relax your feet as you roll, relax your feet, relax your feet, relax your feet.
Pelvic Floor release
This one is subtle but strong. Using the roller to contact your pelvic floor is quite easy if you can manage this position. You may prefer a towel over the roller if it feels a bit hard. This position allows for some micro hip movement and release of pelvic floor muscles attaching to the pelvic outlet.
Reason 2 – Alignment
I hear a lot of people struggle with a sore neck from Pilates. Achieving the right position of the shoulders and neck is the only way to avoid this. If you don’t have the upper abdominal strength this can be very difficult. That’s where the roller comes in.
Below is an example of the ‘series of 5’ abdominal exercises in the Pilates mat repertoire. Demonstrated here with head and shoulders supported by the roller. This support takes pressure of the head and neck and supports the upper abdominals to engage.
Support your neck and upper abdominals
As you get stronger you can position the roller under the shoulder blades for more of a challenge. Be sure to keep the head lifted and the back of your neck long to avoid neck pain. Keep pulling the base of your ribs back towards the roller for strong abdominals.
Lower back support
Reason 3 – Balance challenge
There are so many ways to challenge your balance on the roller. Lying long ways on a roller gives you loads of opportunities to work your deep abdominals and make it as hard or easy as you like.
Supine on Long Roller
This position has you supported from your tail bone, right to the top of your head. With your hands out to the side you can steady yourself on the ground or you can just use your finger tips to challenge your self more. Play with different leg and arm movements to load your abdominals and challenge your stability.
Reason 4 – Glide
The roller is a great place to do a shoulder glide. The curve of the roller provides a lovely guide for the scapula (shoulder blades) to glide across the ribs and ‘hug’ the sides of the roller. This small movement maintains healthy scapula movement which supports healthy function of the shoulder joint and range of movement of the arms.
I hope this gives you some ideas to get back on your roller. It is a great prop. I always encourage you to start with these moves and then follow your body and try things out. Have fun moving to nurture yourself. X