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What Are Foam Rollers?
Several years ago the words “foam roller” would have only been known by a small population; physical therapists, athletes or personal trainers; even fewer really knew what to do with them. More recently in the last few years however their importance has become more and more understood. Instead of only seeing foam rollers in gyms, you can now expect to see them in people’s homes. If you are serious about your health or fitness then this is a MUST HAVE item. Foam rollers can be thought of as a little bit like rolling pins for your muscles. They are cylindrical lengths of roam that you roll over to help loosen muscles and fascia.
Foam rollers may save you from injury, help you as part of your rehabilitation or just keep you supple and feeling good. They work by releasing tight muscles and fascia throughout the body, a little bit like having a deep tissue sports massage, especially if you are less flexible than ideal.
How Do You Use Foam Rollers?
Imagine the foam roller is a rolling pin and your muscle is a lump of dough. You wouldn’t just roll straight over the dough because this wouldn’t be very effective and the rolling pin would just go straight over to the other side.
Instead you would roll into the dough, then back off, and then back into the dough again repeating until all the dough is flat. The same goes for foam rolling your muscles.
To use them you place the muscle you are trying to roll on top and roll over it slowly and with control.
There are usually various points along any given muscle that will be painful (incredibly painful in some places for the first few times but the pain does get less). It is these painful points that you want to focus your efforts on so they loosen up.
The method we use is to roll along the muscle slowly until you can start to feel the tight spot coming and then stop. Roll off, away from that point to relieve the pressure and reduce the discomfort and then slowly roll back on to that point; but this time just a little bit further in onto that tight spot and hold it there.
Repeat this process until you get all the way over that tight spot and keep going along the muscle. Each muscle should be rolled back and forth a few times, we say 5 times as this is enough to do create a change but not so many that you will be there for a long time or get bored.
Types Of Foam Rollers
There are may different types of foam rollers on the market these days with many different brands and styles; the quality and longevity is often reflected in the price, so your choice of foam roller should be based on how often you intend to use it and how long you want it to last.
Foam rollers come in different densities and different lengths. The length isn’t too important, although the longer ones are easier to use as you can fit more of yourself on, but instead the density is more important as this will determine how long the foam roller will last; the cheaper models will often lose their shape and hardness the more they are used.
Discussed below are the most common types available that we would recommend considering; High Density Foam Roller, Hollow Tube Insert Roller, Branded Hollow Tube Insert Roller, Rumble Roller and Rumble Roller Gator.
Roller 1- High Density Foam Roller
Pictured just below is a high density foam roller from Reebok. Although this is not the same high density roller as featured in the video above, this is one that we have used before and recommend. The specific roller in the video is not as easy to find online compared to the Reebok roller.
The foam on this roller is decent and will last for quite some time before deforming, however after searching on Amazon, for the same price you could get one of the rollers featured below which would probably be of better value as this is retailing for £35.64 + £2.98 UK delivery at the time of writing.
Roller 2- Hollow Plastic Insert Foam Rollers
This type of foam roller has exploded on the market with so many different variations and designs.
It would be impossible to try them all out but here’s what to look for when you choose one for yourself.
The original roller in this category was the Triggerpoint Therapy Grid Roller. It was revolutionary at its time of release because there was nothing like it at the time. It retails for around £30 on amazon depending on the colour you choose.
However, compared with the non branded options out there, these rollers are expensive in comparison. To be honest, there’s not a lot of difference between the Triggerpoint Grid rollers and the cheaper options in terms of quality and longevity, so if it was up to me I would suggest one of the cheaper options.
As mentioned in the video, this type of roller has a wide variety of patterns and designs of the foam outer which in theory is supposed to feel like a therapist’s thumbs or hands. But in my experience it doesn’t feel that noticeable and therefore would not be a factor to consider when choosing a roller.
The cheaper alternatives to the Grid Roller retail on Amazon.co.uk between £10 and £15.
Roller 3- Rumble Roller
This foam roller looks SAVAGE!
However it really does look worse than it actually is!
The difference between a Rumble Roller and a normal type of foam roller is that the nodules on these rollers are more pronounced and are spaced further away which means the nodules can penetrate into the muscles deeper.
In my opinion these nodules really do simulate a therapist’s thumbs and you can feel them pressing in to the muscles more effectively.
The flatter foam rollers seem to just compress the muscles, a bit like using a rolling pin to roll out dough, whereas the Rumble Roller doesn’t squash the muscle so much and therefore doesn’t hurt as much.
There are two types of Rumble Roller; the Blue (softer) and the Black (harder), and they come in 3 different lengths. Ths roller pictured is the Medium which is suitable for most people.
The smaller roller would be perfect for taking with you on your travels but in all honesty, probably a bit too small for regular use.
It’s also worth noting that the longer the roller, the larger the diameter and visa versa.
Go for either the medium or large if you’re looking to roll at home or in a gym.
Roller 4- Rumble Roller Gator
Now this is an interesting one. To begin with I just thought it was a standard foam roller with a novel design. However once I looked into it I realised it was supposed to work on the fascia.
This meant it was supposed to work more superficially and the small bumps were designed to grip the skin as you twist and slide on top, working on loosening the fascia in the process.
You can of course use this like a normal roller which works just the same.
This roller has worked better than I originally anticipated and if you are looking to releive some tightness in the skin and the muscle undeneath then this would be a perfect choice.
However if you just wanted to use this like a normal foam roller then I would suggest you just go for one of the cheaper versions mentioned above.
The Rumble Roller Gator retails on Amazon.co.uk for £56.99 at the time of writing.
So this concludes my most recommended types of foam rollers.
If you want a standard foller for general physical maintenance then go for one of the non branded hollow plastic insert foam rollers. They are affordable and will last you a long time.
If you wanted to get a bit deeped then I would suggest the Rumble Roller Original (blue), and if you really want to be aggressive then go for the black one.
Stay fit, healthy and happy,