Equipment: The Foam Roller

The foam roller is just what the name suggests – typically 12 to 36 inches long and cylinder in shape – its foam-like textured surface aids in creating both a gentle support for the body as well as a myofascial release that improves soft tissue extensibility and helps relax the muscles.  Physios, and now trainers and pilates instructors alike, use these for stretching and strengthening, and like the Swiss Ball, it is also beneficial with balance and core work.

While attending a physio session may be costly, these rollers can be found at most gyms or online anywhere from £15 to £25.  Be warned: painful yelps are not uncommon when first getting used to their firm exterior. Your muscles will be thrilled however, likening it to a self-imposed intense massage.  And if you can manage to balance on your back with one leg up as well – you’re body will be even happier.  After all, targeting both deep tissue and core strength with one prop is no small feat!

The Swiss Ball (or Exercise Ball)

Available in sizes 35-85 centimetres, these exercise balls are made of PVC plastic and are used for balance and control, in turn helping strengthen the overall body (in particular the core muscles).  Exercises can be as simple as sitting on the ball with an aim to stay centered, or to more advanced moves such as laying on your back in the ‘bridge’ or ‘rollover’ as seen in pictures above.  

Originally created by an Italian plastics manufacturer in 1963, the ball was later made famous by British physiotherapist Mary Quinton who was living in Switzerland – thus the creation of the ‘Swiss ball’.  They became popular with American physios, and can now be found at most gyms or online for as little as £3.30 each on Amazon.  The work-out can be challenging, but is wonderful at keeping your core in check (otherwise it can be a nasty drop!).