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Foam Roller Core Stability Series

By March 23, 2011January 8th, 2014Ab Training, Low Back Reconditioning

I’m not sure why I’ve never written about these exercises…I learned a couple of them around 8 years ago from a chiropractor who was ART certified. I’ve always loved performing a few of them after I foam roll just to add in some extra stability work. Since learning the two variations from the chiropractor years ago, I came up with other variations based on my knowledge of vector training. I included most of these variations in a brief portion of my glute eBook a couple years back but never explained them to my readers.

Core stability is vector specific, and as you’ll see in the video you can work different vectors by repositioning your body on the foam roller. There are 9  different exercises in the video, including:

  1. Supine Torso Hold
  2. Supine Lower Body Hold
  3. Supine Rotary Hold
  4. Prone Rotary Hold
  5. Side Torso Hold
  6. Side Lower Body Hold
  7. Prone Torso Hold
  8. Prone Lower Body Hold
  9. Prone Hover

Out of all of the exercises, my favorite is the supine torso hold, with the supine rotary hold being my second favorite. I tested the EMG activity of some of these movements two years ago and they elicit more abdominal activity than plank variations. Sure there are ways to make planks more difficult, but there are ways to make the foam roller exercises more difficult as well. Here’s a chart that shows the activity:

I highly recommend that you give these exercises a try and tinker around with them. I think that you’ll find them very effective and convenient. Here’s the video:

I hope you’re all having a great week! -Bret


  • PJ Striet says:

    Gonna give that supine torso hold a go tomorrow Bret…looks good.

  • Teresa Merrick says:

    Hi Bret,

    Cool video and thanks for the ideas!

    Another one I’ve been having fun with is a supine torso hold–full plank type–over BOSU. You have to find the sweet spot of balance on the top so you aren’t toppling toward head or feet. The challenge is lengthening your body, holding with abs in front, and shutting off hip flexors. After your neat videos, I’m sure a prone version is just as cool!

  • Smitty says:

    Bret, this is very cool and I will be using these immediately.

  • David says:

    This is amazing stuff. Im a basketball player and i regularly squat and DL and i have noticed that my anti-flexion is far superior to my anti-extension core ability. My rotary is average, could be better but I really want to target that anti-extension so i started planking recently. I wanted work my way up to ab wheels once i can get that 2 minute from plank, but now im thinking about switching to these and progressing from there. Thoughts?

    • Bret says:

      David – do them all. Planks, foam roller supine torso holds, ab wheel rollouts from knees, etc. Just pick one per day and do a couple of sets until you’re up to speed.

      • David says:

        Should I do core that much if im doing 3x per week strength training? I do cns intensive type of training. ( squats, DL, split squat, pull ups, bench etc., along with plyos )Btw, did a few sets of the single arm neutral grip presses yesterday and my obliques are very sore today. Good stuff.

        • Bret says:

          David, a just do a couple of sets at the end of my workouts, and I’m not always trying for PR’s or anything like that. And if you do exercises in your normal routine that hit the core from various vectors, then you may not need to do any at all.

          • David says:

            i did the supine holds twice for 3 sets last week. I was able to hit 35 seconds a few days ago, it seems to be working. Thanks Bret.

  • Excellent, thanks. One thing I’ve found as a trainer is that it is important to have a large toolbox of exercises to keep things fresh and to be able to adapt to whatever resources are available at a given moment. These will help.

  • Andrew says:

    Awesome article Bret – loved the video. I’m with you on the idea that you don’t see this technique around. I’ve NEVER used it myself, although the first supine hold you did is slightly reminiscent of a foam roller crunch. I’ve never liked them but perhaps that position isn’t as bad for the lumbar spine as I assumed.

    How’s New Zealand treating you? My father happens to be from the South Island.

    • Bret says:

      Andrew – your spine isn’t in flexion so it’s not a crunch. It’s a static hold while in neutral position. NZ is great! The only thing is that the cost of living is a bit higher than Phx/Scottsdale. Makes me miss and appreciate back home! 🙂

  • Dave says:

    Hi Bret,
    This is an awesome video, thanks for putting such good content up so consistently! Gonna give these a try starting in my next session.

  • Jacob Winqvist says:

    Thanks for showing these exercises Bret! I fell in love immediatly with the torso-holds.

  • Heather says:

    Great stuff as usual! Will definately give these a try. Thanks!

  • Joanne says:

    Great vid, Bret….creative use of the foam roller and I can’t wait to have a go – I can’t do a regular side plank supporting my weight through the shoulder after a fracture so this is a great way of getting the benefits without the wrong pain stopping me in my tracks. Can’t say I’m gonna love it, and it certainly doesn’t look easy to do but will make a start!

    • Bret says:

      You bring up a good point. For those with shoulder issues the side torso hold is a great idea. It’s hard to position your body effectively for that one, but tinker around and you’ll figure it out.

  • Stephane says:

    You always seem to come out with some of the most original, interesting and effective stuff out there. I gave this a try and felt like I was having a seizure.

    Thanks Bret!

  • Bret, way to use that brain of yours to think outside the box! I look forward adding these to the arsenal.

    Here’s a foam rolling ab exercise that I “invented.” 🙂

  • Mark Roberts says:

    Hi Bret

    Brilliant as usual. I actually ‘discovered’ the Supine Torso Hold myself playing with a foam roller. I tended to use by rolling backward and forward, ie, easier to harder rather than holding it.

    I have been doing hip thrust following your inspiration and my glutes are super hard (they have always been big). I have real trouble doing them with a barbell through because of the pain of the bar on my hips. The gym I use has an old bar pad but even using that and a thin mat under the bar I find it very painful on my pelvic bones. Any tips, eg, position of the bar?

    Thanks for your dedication with sharing you wisdom

    All the best


    • Bret says:

      Mark – you need a Hampton thick bar pad or an Airex balance pad. You kind find these online. I prefer the Airex balance pad. It works miracles – no pain at all. Hope that helps! -Bret

      • Mark Roberts says:

        Thanks Bret

        Quick check and couldn’t find anywhere in UK that supplies the Hampton pad so Airex balance pad it is. Amazed how expensive it is (at least in UK), cheapest 35.70 GBP = 78.1101 NZD and one site 115.46 GBP = 252.654 NZD!


      • Teresa Merrick says:

        You might try a foam pool noodle–slit it to the center so you put on bar. I’ve found these work really great for Zercher squats too. It’s firm foam, not squishy.

  • Re the pad for a hip thrust, my gym has some sturdy cotton blankets in the yoga studio that work.

  • Krista says:

    I just had a PT do an FMS on me this past Tuesday and one of my weaknesses is rotary stability/strength. This really got my sides firing. thanks for the video!

  • Harish says:

    Prone rotary hold was sick , did them last evening..

    Love it Bret .

  • april says:

    This is awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing… I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow!

  • Simon Headland says:

    When u did ab exercise EMG and tested the standing ab wheel, did u anteriorially rotate ur pelvis and squeeze glutes as u described in one of ur threads. I tried it like this and was astonishined – in 5 sets, abs were so contracted and pumped I look pregnant (depsite being 10%). HGH abs lol without the HGH

  • Lasse Andsbjerg says:

    Hi Bret.

    I’m about to finish my education as a physical therapist in Denmark and at the moment I’m doing a bachelor project on correlation between core stability and performance in male elite team handball. I need to test the players core stability in one single test, and therefore I’ve decided to use Brian MacKenzie’s core test. (
    I wanna hear if you have any experience with this test? If yes, do you have any comments on wether or not you find it usefull?

    Lasse Andsbjerg
    Student of physical therapy at VIA University College, Campus Holstebro, Denmark.

    • Bret says:

      Lasse, this is a good ABC “Ask Bret Contreras” question. I’ll try to get around to it quickly. I do not have experience with it but I think you could do better. -Bret

  • kit laughlin says:


    It’s an English expression that means that (in his opinion) there might be better tests around. As well, the person demonstrating that plank and its modifications is making all of the most common errors that are made in using this position: kyphotic middle back and hyperextended lower back (and extended neck!). It illustrates precisely how *not* to do the position.

    When you see it done properly, the whole spine is in the neutral (or optimal) alignment—which requires the lower abs and internal obliques (not to mention the glutes) to be firing. The kyphosis and lordosis the model displays suggests that his RA is dominant, and his hip flexors are tight.

    Bret, your exercises are excellent, and like one of the other posters above, we also found this use of the rollers by happy accident. Cheers, KL

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for sharing these, I haven’t thought of using my foam roller while working out! Brilliant!

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