A foam roller is a popular self-massage exercise accessory which helps soothe tight and weary muscles - we give you plenty of information and advice about these effective cylindrical devices, including the various types of foam roller available to buy, how to use them and the benefits of owning one
WHAT IS A FOAM ROLLER?
Find out what this fitness aid is and what it can do for you
TYPES & FEATURES
The various kinds of foam and choosing one for your needs
HOW TO USE A ROLLER
Tips and advice for getting the best results from a foam roller
A foam roller is a lightweight cylindrical tube which uses your own body weight to let you perform a self-massage - making it a perfect device for pain relief and exercising your tight or tired muscles.
Massage has long been used by elite sports athletes to relieve muscle tension, promote recovery, and improve flexibility. However, thanks to foam rollers, massage is now available to people at all levels of fitness without having to pay out hefty charges for the privilege.
Foam rollers are truly impressive devices which are bringing the benefits of self-massage to the masses. They can be used for a good workout as well as helping to relieve sore muscles. They really are great for exercising, stretching, massaging, core strengthening, rehabilitation and relaxing various parts of your body including your legs, arms, buttocks and upper back.
We feature a huge range of rollers, from cheap rollers made from low density EVA foam to deluxe vibrating electric rollers for achieving extra deep tissue massage.
The various ways to use a foam roller discussed fully on this site - but the basic concept of using one of these excellent devices involves placing the roller on the floor, resting the muscle you wish to massage on it and then gently rolling backwards and forwards. Muscle knots can be loosened up by applying pressure on them, by way of your body weight, for typically 30 to 60 seconds.
Using your weight to apply pressure on the foam roller causes an automatic response from your body, known as autogenic inhibition, which then releases tight muscles.
Foam rollers can be used for a variety of reasons including loosening tight muscles, stretching, self myofascial release, boosting blood flow to your muscles, rehabilitation and increasing your mobility.
A low-density foam is usually the best choice for a beginner but as you progress with rolling you can switch to a higher density roller to get the effective pressure you need.
Rollers are ideal for many exercises including stomach twists and crunches. They are beneficial for stretching tendons and muscles, while breaking down soft connective tissue underneath your skin.
You'll often see foam rollers being used in modern gyms and health clubs these days and they are a popular accessory for women and men to use in their yoga and pilates sessions.
The foam roller is one unassuming piece of equipment that, given its versatility of use, ought to find a place in every health conscious individual's list of must-have sports sports and exercise accessories.
There are many areas of the body where a roller can offer relief for tight muscles - using one to ease tight spots on the hips, thighs, inside groin and upper back is a popular choice.
Foam rollers are graded by colour, with white being the softest, black, the hardest, and blue and green somewhere in between. The black category is typically a professional grade ethylene vinyl acetate (or EVA) roller, and is likely to cost you anything between £15 and £60.
If you are new to using to the idea of using a roller, it may be best to start with a smooth surface white foam roller so that you do not accidentally exert too much pressure on your muscles. Experienced users often opt for rollers with raised nodules on the surface which offer deep massage to relieve the discomfort of trigger point muscle knots.
Foam rollers are regularly used by runners to both warm up and massage the leg muscles, particularly the calves. The DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) experienced by runners is often alleviated greatly and even prevented altogether if a foam roller is used. They are used by gym-goers for the same purpose as well as for getting total body workouts.
Rollers are available in various colours including white, black, blue, yellow, red, brown and grey. Most are smooth foam while others have a surface dimples or knobs to offer a deep massage and stimulate muscle tissue. Various sizes are available including 15cms x 30cms, 10cms x 90cms and 45cms x 15 cms.
You can also use a roller if you are stressed out and sore at the end of a day at work. When choosing a foam roller, you need to consider various factors including, size, density, surface and quality . If you are going to use it mainly for upper back massage, a large 90cm roller may be your best choice. If, however, you need more compact to take to the gym, for example, a smaller 30cm roller could be the best option for you.
When you are into foam rolling as a regular activity, purchasing an EVA roller makes sense since as it will revert to its original shape more easily than cheap polyethylene rollers which sometimes lose their shape or start to fall apart after a while.
You will usually feel much better after using a roller and your muscles will be able to perform and function more efficiently. Rollers help release muscular tension and aid recovery from workouts, which will ultimately improve physical performance capabilities and help prevent future injury.
You can also consider buying a roller that comes with a plastic core to preserve the original shape longer. However, traditionalists will say that a pure foam roller offers better 'natural' resistance. This refers to the fact that a slight flexibility is desirable so that the roller, notwithstanding its density, conforms to the contours of the body.
If you are a professional athlete or, at least, take your workout sessions seriously, you might want to try using a TriggerPoint GRID roller. These highly regarded devices are rollers feature an embedded pattern on the surface to simulate fingers of a massage therapist and also to hit the trigger points (knots in the muscle that are to be massaged) with more accuracy and higher pressure.
It is generally believed that working out with a foam roller helps with proprioception, just as it improves core stability. Proprioceptors are special nerve endings in muscles that, in lay terms, give you a better idea of the space the body occupies and how it moves in that space. In other words, these help in better balance and coordination.
A deep tissue massage routine with a roller is beneficial for many other areas including the neck, pecs, lats, adductors, shins, feet, glutes, quads and hamstrings.
Many of our featured foam rollers come in the form of a cylinder that is not always completely round. The partial round shape is to ensure that it does not roll away on its own when you are lying on it, or that you do not roll beyond where you want to go. This design of roller is used for activities that aim to improve balance and stabilize the core muscles. Completely round rollers are usually for massage only.
Many people have reported that rollers have helped ease the discomfort physical ailments such as sciatica and piriformis syndrome. If you have a pre-existing medical condition it is imperative that you seek medical advice before using a foam roller.
Even though the entire process is intuitive, it is probably best to initially work under the guidance of a qualified instructor to make the most of foam rolling. This will give you peace of mind that you using the roller correctly and safely.
A foam roller is a simple yet revolutionary accessory that plays a leading role in many people's health and fitness routines. If you are new to foam rolling you should start off with a softer, smooth surface roller - then, when your body has become accustomed to the pressure exerted on knotted muscles, you can consider moving to a denser foam roller with a higher intensity rating.
Foam rollers are readily available to buy these days at many leading UK stores including Argos, Sports Direct, JD Sports, Sweatband, Physioroom, 66fit, eBay and shopping giant Amazon. You'll find the main brand names here for rollers including Physique, Rumble Roller, 66fit, Trigger Point, EVA, CrystalTec, Reebok, Maximo Fitness, Bodhivana, PhysioWorld, Result Sport, Studio Pro, Fitbox Club, Zon, Lonsdale, Body Sculture PROTONE and VLFit.