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Leg Lifts on the Foam Roller–Two Ways to Challenge your Core

There are two ways to do Leg lifts on the foam roller, and both ways challenge your core muscles. You might recall my earlier post on how to do Leg lifts on the floor. Doing Leg lifts on the foam roller is very similar, except the addition of an unstable surface makes the exercise more challenging.

Leg Lifts with the Long Roller

Whenever the roller is along your spine, I refer to this as being in a long roller position. This is compared to a short roller position when you turn the roller and only a portion of it makes contact with your spine.

  1. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Come onto your back. If you’re on the foam roller, make sure that you sit all the way at one end of the roller so that, as you lie down, you don’t run out of support. Your pelvis, spine, and head should all be supported by the roller. If your head is off the roller, you can either wiggle your way down so that you’re fully supported; or you can roll off and try again.
  3. If you are on a roller, ground through your feet and use your abdominals to keep you centered. (You should still engage your abdominals even if you’re not on a roller. The feeling just won’t be quite as intense.)
  4. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, and ensure that your pelvis is in neutral.
  5. Take a nice, deep inhale.
  6. Completely exhale. Feel the air leave your abdominal cavity and chest, but don’t let your spine move.
  7. leg lifts on the foam rollerInhale and lift your right leg up to Table top. Your right knee should be directly above your hip with your right ankle in line with your knee. Choose whether you’d like to point, flex, or floint your foot.
  8. Exhale and hinge your right thigh away from you. Make sure that there is no movement from the knee.
  9. Inhale and come back to Table top.
  10. Complete 10 repetitions on this side, then lower the right leg and lift the left. Make sure you complete as many repetitions on the left side as you did with the right.
  11. For additional challenge, try one of the Leg lift modifications described below like alternating legs or reciprocal leg movement.

Leg Lift with the Short Roller

  1. Place the roller under your tailbone. Make sure that you are centered on the roller before lowering your upper body to the mat. With the roller in this position, you have less support for your spine. This means more work for your core muscles, including your glutes.
  2. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  3. leg lifts on the foam rollerInhale and lift your right leg up to Table top. Your right knee should be directly above your hip with your right ankle in line with your knee. Choose whether you’d like to point, flex, or floint your foot.
  4. Exhale and hinge your right thigh away from you. Make sure that there is no movement from the knee.
  5. Inhale and come back to Table top.
  6. Complete 10 repetitions on this side, then lower the right leg and lift the left. Make sure you complete as many repetitions on the left side as you did with the right.
  7. For additional challenge, try one of the Leg lift modifications described below like alternating legs or reciprocal leg movement.

Leg Lift Modification

You can work the legs individually, completing all the reps on each side before switching, or you can do alternating or reciprocal leg movement. With alternating legs, you would, for example, lift the right leg, lower it, then lift the left leg, and lower it.

leg lifts on the foam rollerReciprocal leg movement means that you lift your right leg and, as your right leg lowers, your left leg lifts. Then, as your left leg lowers, your right leg lifts. This way, your legs are constantly in motion. I find this to be the most challenging version of this exercise.

Finding a Foam Roller

If you want to order a foam roller, I recommend the OPTP brand foam roller. Their foam rollers are firm and don’t dent or bend easily. It’s crucial for your foam roller to be firm and stay the same shape throughout its use.

Foam rollers are a great tool to elevate your Pilates mat work, but they’re also wonderful self-massage tools. Here’s a link to some foam roller stretches.

Left Lifts on the Foam Roller Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

What’s your favorite way to strengthen your core? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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