Forget sit-ups — build core muscle with this 4-move foam roller workout

a woman performing an ab routine with a foam roller
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you've grown tired of performing the same old circuit of the best ab exercises over and over, we don't blame you. Floor based ab exercises can end up feeling very repetitive and then when it comes to standing ab workouts you often need access to weights like the best kettlebells or dumbbells. But what if we told you, that the old foam roller you keep in the corner or your garage could be the new tool to unlocking core strength?

Fitness trainer, Sara Colquhoun, is behind the making of this four move foam roller ab workout that we are about to share with you. With her workout, you'll soon realise that the best foam rollers aren't just for relieving tension in your muscles and can in fact be a great ab building tool.

Unlike weights, which primarily provide resistance, a foam roller introduces instability to exercises, requiring additional engagement from stabilizing muscles, including those of the core. Want to find out more and how to do the workout? Keep reading.

What is the workout?

There are only four exercises to complete in the routine but each will require you to focus on balance and form so it's not the kind of workout that you want to rush through. Especially not if you want to make genuine strength gains.

Colquhoun demonstrates each exercise in the video above so be sure to study her form and emulate this when you try the workout yourself. We'd recommend rolling out some form of padding like one of the best yoga mats to soften the surface below you as you train.

  • Double knee pull: You start with the roller back as far as you can and you pull it in to work your core hardest. 
  • Shoulder taps: Focus on core, pelvic and shoulder stability as you alternate tapping each shoulder with the opposite hand. 
  • Oblique knee pull: Sara Colquhoun says you should roll right onto the outer side of one leg. This will massage out the lateral muscles of the lower leg as you work your obliques. 
  • Supine stability: Lift the opposite arm and leg at the same time. 

One of the key benefits of training with a foam roller is the convenience and versatility it can offer if you own this affordable recovery tool or have access to one at a gym you attend. With just one piece of equipment, you can engage in a variety of exercises targeting different aspects of core strength and stability. From double knee pulls to shoulder taps and oblique knee pulls, each movement requires precise control and activation of the core muscles, resulting in a thorough workout for the entire abdominal region.

Moreover, this style of workout emphasizes functional movement patterns, which helps make everyday life easier, whether that be bending down to pick up something or lifting something down from a cupboard. By incorporating exercises that mimic real-life movements you not only strengthen your core but also improve coordination and body awareness.

With consistent practice of these foam roller exercises, you can start to develop improved muscle definition. But, it's important to note that while this workout can be highly effective for building core strength and stability, visible results won't happen overnight. 

Consistency and progression are key factors in achieving a strong and defined core. As well as focusing on regular core workouts, incorporating a balanced diet and overall healthy lifestyle can further support your fitness goals. Always listen to your body, progress at your own pace, and seek guidance from a certified fitness professional if needed to ensure safe and effective training.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.