Choosing The Best Foam Roller

If you’re involved in an intense workout session and always want to make sure you are doing everything possible to put your best foot forward, one thing you must be doing is tending to your recovery needs. The faster you can recover between your workout sessions, the faster you can get back into the gym and begin your training again.

Top Foam Roller Comparison Chart

Foam RollerDimsRating
Trigger Point Performance Grid Foam Roller
Length - 5, 13, or 26"

Diameter - 5"

Black High Density Foam Roller
Length - 12, 18, or 36"

Diameter - 6"

STI - Rumble Roller
Length - 12 or 31"

Diameter - 5 or 6"

What Body Parts Can You Foam Roll?

what is foam rolling

One technique that more and more people are starting to get involved with to help assist with recovery is foam rolling. Foam rolling has been used by high level athletes for quite some time, but now more gym-goers are starting to get involved with it as well.

Let’s walk you through the details you need to know with regards to what foam rolling is and then go over choosing the best foam roller.

Related: Foam Rolling vs Stretching – Know when to use each method

What Is Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a recovery technique used by anyone doing regular exercise training to help release built up tension and soreness in the muscle tissues. It is a myofacial release technique, which is often used by massage therapists or physiotherapists that you can do all on your own, making it extremely effective for immediate care.

When you use a foam roller, you are going to be activating one muscle while relaxing the opposing muscle, which is what brings about the deeper state of relaxation that you are seeing.

The equipment that is used for foam rolling usually consists of a foam cylinder of various sizes; commonly 12 inches long, 6 inches in diameter. However, longer foam rolls up to 36 inches in length are produced for rolling over certain muscles in the back. A variety of foam roller densities exist, often denoted by the color of the roller. Those new to foam rolling, or those who have particularly tight muscles or severe trigger points, often start with a softer foam roll. White rollers are typically softer, while blue and black rolls tend to be much firmer.

Foam Roller Benefits

The benefits of foam rolling are going to be remarkably similar to the benefits you would receive from a deep tissue massage. First and foremost, you are going to notice that you are much more relaxed after doing the foam rolling. You will feel more flexible in the area that was previously tense and tight, so you are better able to move through the full range of motion you normally would.

Additionally, foam rolling can also help to provide some stress relief as well. Most people find it highly relaxing and once they’ve done it a few times, will want to continue doing it on a regular basis if nothing else for the stress relaxation it provides.

Foam rolling on a regular and longer term basis can also help to enhance blood flow to the various muscle regions, so if you suffer from circulation problems, it may assist with this as well.

The main muscles that you will be able to use the foam roller with include the glute muscles, the lat muscles, the inner thigh (groin) muscles, the quads, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, the upper and lower back muscles, and even the core muscles if desired.

How To Use A Foam Roller

To use a foam roller, you simply place the cylindrical piece of foam underneath the area that is feeling the tension and pressure. Once you’ve located the tender spot, you’ll roll the body back and form over the foam, placing your full weight on the muscle group you’re targeting.

As you do this, you should feel the muscles tensing up at first and then relaxing as you ease into the exercise.

Read Also: Use one of these Percussion Massage Guns to speed up your Recovery

Foam Roller Exercises

There are a number of foam roller exercises as well as foam roller stretches that can be done. Here are a few to get you started. Note that generally speaking, the slower you move across the foam as you perform these exercises, the greater the benefits are going to be as you’ll trigger a deeper level of muscle relaxation as the exercise is performed.

After finishing your exercises, it’s also wise to do some light stretching afterwards as well to complete the process.

Upper Back Releaser

To help relieve tired and tense muscles in your upper back, you’ll want to place the foam roller directly underneath the shoulder blades with the knees bent and feet on the floor (like you are going to do a crunch).

From there, slowly roll the body over the foam, back and form while keeping the elbows bent and hands at the sides of the head.

Continue on, keeping the abs tight the entire time until the back is fully relaxed.

Lat Relaxer

To relax tight lat muscles, you’ll simply want to put the foam roller right underneath the under arm, pressing up against the lat muscle. You should be facing the side of the room, one knee bent and foot planted for support with the other leg extended. Your working side arm should be extended above the head with the other bend and in front of you for balance.

Roll back and forth and then switch sides to target the opposite side of the body.

Quad Tension Easer

Have sore quads that just won’t relax? Foam rolling can get them all healed up. Place the body over top of the foam roller with the upper thighs right over the mid-point. From there, roll the body back and form over the foam, keeping the arms straight in front of you for balance.

Keeping your abs tight at all times will also help to keep the body in straight alignment so you aren’t risking lower back pain.

Hamstring Helper

The hamstrings are another muscle group that tend to get very tense and tight with time as well. To help treat this area, simply place the hamstrings over top of the roller, the hands planted firmly on the floor behind you for optimal balance.

Once there, keeping the abs tight, slowly roll back and forth over the roller between the knees and the hips, targeting the hamstring muscles.

You can also perform this same exercise for the calves as well by simply shifting the body down lower so it’s directly under the main area of the calf muscle.

So now that you see a few of the main foam roller exercises you can do, let’s move on and go over how to select the best foam roller.

Types Of Foam Rollers

When selecting the best foam roller, you need to consider the different types. The main characteristics you will need to consider is the length of the foam roller, the width of the foam roller, as well as the firmness of the foam roller.

The firmer the foam roller is, the more of a deep tissue massage it’s going to give you. For someone who is just starting, you may want to go with one that is slightly less firm as it’ll be more comfortable to start.

Then as you get more advanced, you may go to a firmer model.

Also note that the less firm foam rollers may not hold up as much over time if you’re using them often as they’ll start to lose their spring-back firmness.

Likewise, depending on the muscles you plan to work, that can also influence firmness. More tender and sensitive muscles like the lats may be better served with a softer roller while larger muscles that are thicker such as the quads or hamstrings will be better served with a firmer roller.

The size of the roller will depend on the muscle group you want to work as well. Again, the thicker and more dense a muscle, ideally the thicker the foam roller should be.

Now let’s go over some of the best foam roller options to consider.

Trigger Point Performance The Grid Revolutionary Foam Roller

One of the highlights of this foam roller that makes it unique is that it possesses a Distrodensity Foam Zone, which allows you to experience different degrees of pressure depending on where you are working the body on the roller itself.

best foam roller guide

This makes it more like a number of foam rollers all in one.

It is able to support up to 500 pounds, so something that everyone would use and because of this, should prove to be quite durable. It’s only 13 inches long as well, which some people may not like as they may prefer a longer foam roller, but for those who prefer to tote their roller around with them to various fitness classes or locations, it makes it much easier for transportation. It weighs just 680 grams, so is a lightweight foam roller and has a height of 6 inches.

The black appearance gives it a nice sleek look and customer reviews for it are quite positive. Most users who have experienced this roller claim it was very effective for releasing muscular tension and healing their injuries.

It is a higher priced foam roller, coming in at over $40 in most places, so it’s more of an investment model for those who do have a higher budget.
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Black High Density Foam Roller

black density foam roller reviewsIf you want a low cost foam roller, this should be your first choice. At right around $10 depending on where you purchase it from, for those on a budget, you simply can’t go wrong with this model.

It’s made from molded polyethylene foam and offers 2 pounds of per cubic foot of density.

While this product does contain many positive reviews out there, there are also quite a few less positive ones as well. But, given the price, as the saying goes, you’re going to get what you pay for. Because this model is so cost effective, you can easily re-purchase another if it wears out slightly sooner.

Some of the negative complaints were due to the foam chipping off, the roller not being either firm enough to start or losing its firmness over time with regular use, as well as an inability to roll smoothly.

If you are planning on using your foam roller quite regularly, it may be worth investing in a more solid model that will stand up with ongoing pressure being placed on it.

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STI Rumble Roller

rumble foam rollerThe last higher end foam roller model you may consider purchasing is the STI Rumble Roller. This one will range in price points depending on the size you want to purchase, with the larger models moving up beyond the $100 price point range.

This roller is much different at first appearance than other rollers you may have seen due to the fact that it doesn’t have a smooth and flat surface. Instead, you will roll over small ‘spikes’ that will really work overtime to remove any knots in the muscles that you are experiencing or increased muscle tension.

This roller is also available in different levels of firmness, so caters well to just about everyone regardless of your experience with foam rolling.

The makers of this foam roller claim that it’s a superior option because unlike most foam rollers that compress soft tissue to release the knots and tension, this foam roller, due to its shape and overall structure will manipulate the soft tissue instead, providing further benefits and keeping your muscles in top form.

This foam roller also claims to allow for more side to side movement than just back and forth, so can add a new dimension to your foam rolling routine.

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“Rolling” It Up

So there you have some basic information on the best foam rollers to consider across all price points. You need to assess what you plan to use the foam roller for and how often you will be using it in order to make the most informed decision.

Whichever model you decide however, one thing is for certain and that is that foam rolling is an excellent way to relieve sore, tight muscles, improve recovery, and provide additional stress relief.

Shane D.

Shane D.

Hey, I'm Shane! I've been a gym rat for 10+ years and have been in CrossFit since 2016. For better or worse, I've tried just about every piece of equipment, diet, and supplement one can try to achieve peak performance.

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