Easy stretch and strengthening exercises

We have some simple exercises to help you lose weight and feel great! Physical therapist and fitness expert, Julie Anne McCarthy, has some great exercises you can do at home.

Strength and stretch with the foam roller

A foam roller is an inexpensive exercise device that can be used by anyone. You may see the cylindrical shape at the gym and wonder what it can be used for? With pleasure let me introduce you to the foam roller. The foam roller is a useful tool for improving flexibility, balance, strength and muscular awareness. The rolling motion helps to release tight muscles and the elevation of the foam roller allows for increased extension in the shoulder and chest area. In addition the unstable cylindrical shape of the roller provides a challenging environment for abdominal strengthening exercises.

Core strengthening

Dead Bugs Level 1 for Abdominal Strengthening Exercise (Beginner) - Sit on one end of the roller and lay back so that your head is again supported on the roller. Reach your arms out to each side like a T. Have your knees shoulder width apart and bent approximately 90 degrees with your feet flat on the ground. Begin by tightening your stomach muscles trying to pull your belly button to the back of your spine without tucking your tailbone under. Maintaining the neutral position of the spine slowly lift one knee up till your thigh is perpendicular to the ground then lower the leg back to the starting position. Alternate legs until fatigued.

Dead Bugs Level 2 for Abdominal Strengthening Exercise (Advanced) - Lay in the same body position as in the beginner exercise, maintaining the neutral spine position. Begin with both knees bent and legs up so that your thighs are at 90 degrees to your body. Slowly lower one leg towards the floor. Without touching the floor, lift the leg back to the starting position and alternate legs. Maintain the neutral spine position throughout the entire exercise.

For both abdominal exercises:

* In order to increase difficulty to an intermediate level move your hands from the straight out to the sides (T-position) to down by your sides

** For even more difficulty reach your arms directly over your head

Upper body stretches
(Holding for 30 sec. to 2 minutes)

Snow angels for a great chest stretch: Sit on one end of the roller and then lay back. Your head should be resting on the roller and your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart to provide balance. Bring both arms up in front of you and bend both elbows to 90 degrees, forearms will be parallel to the ground. Keeping your elbows bent, open your arms out to the sides and relax. Let gravity stretch the muscles of your chest and shoulders.

T-SPINE is on MY MIND for thoracic Spine Mobility - Lay on the roller so that your spine is perpendicular with the roll, bend knees and lift hips off ground while maintaining a flat body position. Roll back and forth from the top of the shoulders down to the bottom of the rib cage. This exercise will help improve the mobility of the thoracic spine by encouraging movement in each segment.

Lower body stretches
(Holding for 30 seconds to 2 minutes)

Calf Roll - Support your weight with your hands on the floor and one calf on the roller. Do not sit on the floor. Using your upper body roll from your heel to the top of your calf.

ITB Roll - Lay on the roller so that the roll sits under the side of the leg just below the hip joint. Support the weight of your body on your hands, and opposite leg (which is crossed out in front of the leg on the roll). This exercise helps loosen up your Ilio-Tibial Band (ITB) which runs down the outside of your leg from your hip to your knee. Roll back and forth.

**THE ITB ROLLER is ESPECIALLY great for women because most of us have relatively wider hips then men (our Q angle) and we tend to overuse our IT BANDS with walking but especially women.)

Quad Roll - Lay face down on your elbows with the roller under your quadriceps (the front of your upper leg). Roll from the bottom of your pelvis to above your knee.

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