You can perform your deep-tissue massage using foam rollers, also known as “self-administered myofascial release” (SMR). You can stimulate and relax your muscles by using your body weight, precisely controlled.
If you’ve ever used a foam roller, then you may have a love/hate relationship with it. It may be uncomfortable to use the roller, but massaging knots (also called trigger points or myofascial adhesions) may help you release your muscles. Foam rolling has been linked to increased range of motion, improved blood flow, and decreased recovery time for some athletes.
Three characteristics of the rollers should effect affect your shopping decision.
Foam rollers come in different densities, determining how they feel and who they are most suitable for. Foam rollers can have knobs and ridges for applying different amounts of pressure, while others are smooth. The shape, density, and size of the foam rollers affect their use.
Foam Roller Density
Foam rollers come in different densities, and the density determines how effective they are at deep-tissue massage. Foam rollers that are too soft give inadequate pressure, while those that are too hard cause bruising and trauma, which can lead to pain and negatively affect performance.
If you’re beginning to use a foam roller, choose one that’s on the softer side. As you develop your technique and your muscles adapt, you can progress to a denser (harder) roller. Durable denser rollers are also better for long-term use. Soft rollers can become permanently deformed after lots of use, indicating that it’s time to replace the roller.
A roller’s color can hint at its density, with white being the softest and black being the hardest. Usually, red and blue rollers are medium density. The density varies by brand, however. Testing the relative firmness of rollers is as simple as squeezing them. Squeeze tests can only be done in a sporting goods store and not online.
Surface Texture of a Foam Roller
The ridges and knobs of some rollers allow you to apply different pressure intensities and do a more targeted massage. There are also smooth rollers.
Rollers with smooth surfaces: This basic design provides even pressure along the entire length of the roller. You may think smooth rollers is for someone who is just getting started until you get on a hard roller after an injury.
Smooth rollers have more to do with spreading the pressure than your experience. It helps beginners get started with lower intensity and helps those with injury spread the pressure so they do not aggravate injury prematurely. Also, smooth rollers are less expensive.
Foam rollers with ridges and knobs mimic the hands of a masseuse in providing a more precise massage to ease knots in your muscles. Rollers typically come in a variety of textures so that you can find the right amount of pressure.
Size and shape of foam rollers
You can find foam rollers in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Foam rollers with a long length (around 36 inches) are versatile and a good choice for your first foam roller. When placed perpendicular to your spine, they are long enough to span the entire back. When you’re working on quads, hamstrings, and other parts of your body, they’re more stable than shorter rollers.
Smaller areas like arms may require shorter lengths (around 24 inches) are best. These short lengths (about 4 – 12 inches) work well in workout spaces with limited floor space and for portability.
The diameter of most rollers is 5 or 6 inches, which is a comfortable height for easing your body onto and then rolling. For a deeper, more targeted massage, some people prefer rollers with 3 or 4 inches diameter.
Foam rollers cut in half lengthwise look like half-round foam rollers. To relieve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, they are used to stretch and massage the arches of the feet.
Rolling pins with foam covers: Similar in shape to a rolling pin, these rollers are used primarily on legs to target muscles more precisely and regulate pressure. Flexible roller massagers are great for massaging your upper back.
Foam balls offer precise pressure control and can be used to treat curved areas of the body, such as the lumbar region.