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The Foam Roller Workout That Hits Your Most Important Muscles

To get more power and play from your muscles, add foam to your strength routine. "As muscles get stronger, they often lose flexibility," says Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine doctor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and the author of the upcoming Dr. Jordan Metzl's Workout Prescription. "The best way to make—and keep—muscles more pliable is by using a foam roller." Flexy muscles give more flow to your kinetic chain, the interrelated group of muscles, bones, and connective tissue that runs from head to toe. (P.S. They also do wonders for muscle soreness.)

That's why Dr. Metzl created this workout, which pairs a rolling move with compound body-weight exercises. When you roll muscles across the tube, you're loading pressure points on the muscle to relax it (called myofascial release). The strengtheners incorporate oppositional movements. "This helps to even out muscle groups by distributing the work equally," he says—and by hitting fibers you may have missed. The combo of self-massage and sculpting will make you feel better instantly and for long after. "Think of this as fortifying your body so all the other things you do—hiking, swimming, HIIT—don't hurt as much," Dr. Metzl says. And because you'll begin to move more fluidly and with better form, you'll start to go farther and faster and get stronger, he says. (Need more visuals? This video will show you 10 basic foam roller moves.)

How it works: Do the foam-rolling and strengthening moves in the order indicated. Complete this routine 2 to 3 times a week on alternate days.

Total Time: up to 15 minutes

You will need: Foam roller

1. Lower-Back Roll

A.

Start faceup on floor with foam roller under your midback, legs bent, feet flat, and arms out to sides with palms flat. Press into palms and raise hips off floor. Move backward until roller reaches lower back, then reverse the movement. Continue, rolling slowly along your lower back for 1 minute.

Sets:

1

Reps:

1 Minute

2. Classic Burpee

A.

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Crouch, plant hands on floor.

B.

Jump feet back to plank, and lower chest and thighs to floor. Push up to plank, hop feet toward hands.

C.

Jump, reaching hands overhead.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

3. Oppositional Burpee

A.

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Crouch, plant hands on floor, jump feet back to plank. Lift right arm forward at shoulder height as you lift left leg straight back at hip height. Pause; return to plank. Do 1 push-up. Switch sides; repeat (including the push-up), hop feet toward hands, then jump.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

4. Glutes Roll

A.

Sit on foam roller with knees bent, feet flat, and hands on floor behind hips with fingertips facing away from you. Cross right ankle over left leg above knee, shifting body slightly toward right so roller is on back of right thigh, just below glutes. Move forward until roller reaches your lower back, then reverse the movement. Continue, rolling slowly along right glute for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat. That's 1 rep.

Sets:

1

Reps:

1 Minute

5. Oppositional Squat Jump

A.

Stand on left leg with arms by sides to start. Bend left knee, send butt backward, and reach right hand down to touch left toes as you extend right leg forward and left arm out to side.

B.

Jump, landing softly at start. Switch sides; repeat.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

6. Prisoner Squat Jump

A.

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands behind head with arms bent out to sides. Squat to start.

B.

Jump, landing softly in start.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

7. IT-Band Roll

A.

Lie on floor on right side with foam roller under your right hip, feet stacked, left hand on left hip, right forearm on floor perpendicular to body. Cross left leg over right to plant ball of foot on floor in front of right leg, then press into right forearm to lift torso off floor to start. Move forward until roller reaches your knee then reverse movement. Continue, rolling slowly along the outside of your right thigh for 1 minute. Switch sides; repeat.

Sets:

1

Reps:

1 Minute

8. Mountain Climber

A.

Start on floor in plank on palms. Powerfully pull left leg toward chest. Immediately switch sides; repeat. That's 1 rep. Continue, quickly alternating sides.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

9. Leg Lift

A.

Lie faceup with legs extended and arms on floor along sides. Lift legs to hover about 2 inches off floor to start.

B.

Slowly lift straight legs up and back until hips and lower back rise off floor. Return to start.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

10. Shoulder Blades Roll

A.

Lie faceup on floor with foam roller under upper back at tops of shoulder blades, legs bent, feet flat, and arms crossed over chest. Press into roller and raise hips off floor to start. Move backward until roller reaches midback, then reverse the movement. Continue, rolling slowly along upper back, shoulder blades, and midback for 1 minute.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

11. Side-Plank Rotation

A.

Start on floor in a side plank on right palm with feet stacked and left arm reaching up.

B.

Rotate body toward floor to come into a plank on palms. That's 1 rep. Do 8 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

12. Push-Up

A.

Start on floor in plank on palms. Bend elbows back to lower straight body until chest grazes floor. Push up to start.

Sets:

1

Reps:

8

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