Review: This is easily one of the best foam rollers 2021, being extremely popular with users and physiotherapists alike.
It is designed to be long lasting with ability to provide targeted massage. The hollow-core design is pretty unique in the world of foam rollers but it works, having a solid construction that won’t collapse.
Comes with free online instructional videos.
The multidimensional surface helps with circulation and recovery.
A little pricier than other models.
This is easily one of the best foam rollers 2021 (plus it comes highly recommended from my fellow fitness friends). It is the roller you’ll want to invest in if you intend to use it for massage purposes for many years to come.
Review: This is another top rated foam roller that will last a long time and hold its shape. It comes in 2 length options (18” or 36”) and is made of high density foam with appropriate firmness for its rolling purpose.
Firm, high density, good quality foam.
Slightly softer than the Trigger Point above could make it good for beginners.
Long length is good for rolling the back.
The ends may rise off the ground a little when you roll.
This is reliable, good quality foam roller which is an example of the best foam roller for runners, with the right level of firmness and a smooth comfortable texture for use on the legs.
Review: This medium density foam roller is firm enough to give you an effective massage but more gentle than the high density foam rollers on this list making it one of the best foam rollers for beginners.
Semi-firm density is well-suited for beginners.
Includes a 15 minute digital introductory workout.
Comes in 18” or 36” lengths.
Doubles as a roller for exercise purposes as well as massage.
Less durable than the firm, high density rollers on this list.
This roller is a great choice if you’re looking for a slightly softer alternative to the high density rollers on this list.
Review: Warning: users should know what they’re getting themselves into when they purchase a high density, extra firm foam roller. It is supposed to be hard, and it will hurt, but that is how you know it’s doing its job! This roller is no exception.
One of the firmest rollers on the market.
Two length options available.
The extra firmness may take a bit of getting used to.
If you’ve been rolling for a while and are looking to step it up to the next level, this could be the foam roller you’re looking for. If you’re prepared for it, this is the best foam roller for back pain.
Hyperice Vyper 2.0 High Intensity Vibrating Roller
Review: Vibrating massage rollers are designed to give a superior massage when compared to regular foam rollers by delivering vibrations that penetrate the muscles and relieve tension while being less painful than conventional rolling.
3 Vibration intensities.
2 Hours of battery life and rechargeable batteries.
Dual textured polypropylene shell.
Can be noisy if using on a non-carpeted floor.
Some issues with charging.
This is the best vibrating foam roller available right now, being top quality, reliable and effective. The vibrations also make it a great choice when looking for the best foam roller for lower back pain.
Review: Similar to the Hyperice above but more affordable, this is another great option for a vibrating foam roller if you’re looking for a more effective massage than just foam rolling.
3 intensities of vibrations to choose from.
2 hour battery life is more time that you need for a solid massage.
Textured surface provides even deeper massage.
Makes a slightly funky crackling sounds when you roll on it for some people but this doesn’t affect it.
This is among the best vibrating foam roller models on the market.
Rumbleroller Deep-Tissue Massage Roller
Review: Not to be used by the faint-hearted, this deep-tissue massage roller really does target the deep tissue and will be painful, there is no getting around that – but that’s how you know it’s working!
Should only be used by experienced rollers as it will be too painful for beginners.
Deep-tissue massage without having to pay to visit a massage therapist.
Very firm, durable and long lasting.
The right amount of firmness for a solid massage.
Not suitable for beginners or those with a low pain threshold.
This is the best massage foam roller if you’re looking for a deep-tissue treatment.
Review: A slightly different option from the foam rollers above, massage sticks like this one use the same principle but give a deeper massage due to the narrower diameter.
The handles stay still in your hands while the middle sections roll over your muscles.
Solid steel core is durable and won’t bend.
Small enough to easily transport in your gym bag.
9 separate rollers are pressure sensitive and will roll at different speeds for a superior massage.
Ideal for the arch of your foot.
Not suitable for your back unless you can get someone else to do it for you!
This massage stick can be an alternative to a foam roller or complement it, providing a deeper, more intense massage.
This is a great choice if you’re looking for the best portable foam roller.
Introduction to Foam Rollers
A foam roller is literally a piece of relatively firm foam in a cylindrical shape that is designed to lie on the ground and allow you to move your body weight over it.
Allowing certain parts of your body to rest on the foam roller creates a massaging effect as the force of gravity creates pressure on the muscle that is in contact with the foam roller.
As self-massage using your hands can be tricky to carry out effectively, a foam roller makes self-massage much easier.
Known as the “poor man’s massage”, foam rolling helps to release the fascia and allow your muscles to recover more effectively.
The fascia is the thin layer of connective tissue that runs over and around all of the muscles in your body, containing them and separating them from organs and other muscles.
In order for your muscles to stretch and recover after a workout, the fascia must also be stretched and released. Foam rolling is one of the most effective ways to do this.
Benefits of Using a Foam Roller
Self-myofascial release by foam rolling can help to relieve pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness resulting from strenuous physical activity.
Carried out prior to working out, foam rolling can also temporarily increase flexibility and reduce the chances of injury.
Done after a work-out, foam rolling aids in recovery.
Foam rollers are especially useful for massaging parts of the body that are hard to stretch.
For example, massaging the iliotibial band (ITB) with a foam roller is the most effective way to stretch out the ITB, as conventional stretches for the ITB can be pretty awkward to put into practice in an effective way.
Most people’s ITBs are pretty tight so rolling your ITB with a foam roller will be painful the first time you do it.
However, it is worth working through the pain and getting to the point where you can roll out your ITB relatively easily, as a tight ITB is one of the most common causes of injury in active people.
Other parts of the body that benefit greatly from foam rolling include the quads, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and upper back.
Types of Foam Rollers
Foam rollers vary depending on their diameter, firmness and texture.
The best muscle roller for you will be one that matches the intensity of the massage you’re looking for.
For beginners, softer foam rollers will allow a more gentle introduction to the technique and allow your muscles time to get used to the sensation.
It’s important to introduce yourself gradually to foam rolling by starting with a softer roller as you’ll find it much easier to keep your muscles relaxed and they’ll get a chance to benefit from the rolling.
If you start with a roller that is too firm, the pain of rolling will make you tense your muscles and you won’t experience any release.
As you get used to foam rolling you can increase the firmness of the roller you use and you might even start to enjoy the pain!
Most rollers have a diameter of 6” and vary in length. Longer lengths are better suited for rolling your upper back as they can span the width of your shoulders without you falling off either side.
If you’re primarily focussing on your legs, shorter foam rollers can be easier to maneuver.
For most people, a foam roller with a smooth surface will be more than adequate. But for people with seriously knotted and tight muscles, old injuries or scar tissue, textured foam rollers that give a more intense massage may be the way to go.
How to Use a Foam Roller
Using a foam roller is easy, but it takes practice to get really effective at it.
Your muscles need to get used to the sensation of rolling so that the pain isn’t too intense and you can stay relaxed without tensing up and forgetting to breathe.
Your arms also need to be strong enough to hold the part of your body that you’re not rolling so that you can control the amount of body weight you’re putting on the roller.
There are some great videos online with foam roller demonstrations.
But the basic idea is to place the foam roller on the ground, rest the muscle that needs massaging on top of the foam roller and move your body weight slowly over the roller.
Ideally, you should spend a couple of minutes on each muscle and hold for 30 seconds once you find the spot that needs the attention.
Don’t forget to breathe!
If you need more intensity, increase the load of body weight on the roller by lessening the amount of weight that you’re putting on the ground.
If you’re primarily focussing on rolling your back, there are definitely some things you shouldn’t be doing!
So, make sure you’ve checked out some tutorials on foam rolling your back to keep your spine safe – it’s an important part of your body!
And remember, to get the best results from your foam rolling, it needs to become a regular part of your stretching routine.
Foam rolling once in a blue moon isn’t going to make any significant difference to your muscle health. Ideally, you should spend some time foam rolling as often as you work out, ie. most days of the week.
Foam rollers aren’t just for massage. They can be used for stretching and core strength exercises as well.
Most strengthening exercises using the foam roller involve balancing on the roller in a certain way.
For example, many body weight exercises can be modified to include the roller, adding a balance component which makes the exercise harder.
For example, doing press-ups with either your hands or feet balanced on the roller make a simple exercise much more challenging, activating many more muscles.
However, this shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re already very competent with press ups as the risk for injury is fairly high.
The abs in particular can get a great work out using a foam roller.
One great example involves getting into the plank position with your shins on the foam roller.
You then bring your knees towards your arms by rolling the roller underneath your shins until it reaches the tops of your feet.
Then you push your legs back until your legs are straight again and the roller is underneath the tops of your shins where it started.
DIY Foam Rollers
If you’re in a pinch, whether you’re waiting for your newly purchased foam roller to arrive or haven’t yet decided which to purchase, some household items can make great substitute foam rollers to keep your muscles supple and knot-free.
Some of the most effective household items are:
A wide diameter wooden rolling pin.
A stainless steel water bottle or a plastic bottle that’s been placed in the freezer.
A length of PVC pipe.
A tennis ball.
Bear in mind that these objects won’t be as effective as a foam roller, but they can be a great temporary solution.
The rolling pin and drink bottle option may be a little hard if your muscles are unaccustomed to massage, but wrapping a towel around them can help with this.
That concludes this guide to Foam Rollers.
I’ve hope you’ve found it interesting and informative and now feel confident about including foam rollers in your exercise and recovery regime.
Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and feel free to comment below if you’ve had some personal experience with foam rollers.
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Michael is a fitness expert and professional home/garage gym builder. His tutorials, guides, and reviews are backed up by his own experience and will definitely help you achieve your goals. He also loves putting mayo AND ketchup on the pizza for some reason!