When it comes to doing anything other than relaxing in front of the TV in a perfectly sedentary life, there’s a duty of care for our body and our muscles that only the best foam roller can address. This is because foam rollers were created for providing that expensive-feeling deep tissue massage to help soothe our muscles, tendons and the biggest organ of them all: our skin.
Yet, heading out to the nearest shop and picking up the first item with ‘foam roller’ written on it isn’t going to do the job. In fact, there are many different types, sizes, shapes and abilities of the foam roller that suit varied jobs on your body.
And, here at The Hobby Kraze we’re constantly trying out new hobbies and adventures in order to bring you the latest know-how on enjoying your free time. Which comes at a toll on the body (especially when it’s new). So, we’ve become acquainted with some of the types of foam roller and foam rolling exercises out there and want to share the magical curative powers with you.
Have a look at what we’ll be covering:
- What is a Foam Roller?
- What is the Purpose of a Foam Roller and Foam Rolling Routine?
- Where Did the Types of Foam Roller Come From?
- What Are the Different Foam Roller Exercises?
- How Can A Foam Rolling Routine be Added to the Everyday?
- Which is the Best Foam Roller for Certain Sports?
- What Are the 16 Types of Foam Roller?
- Medium Density
- Ball Roller
- Smooth Rollers
- Grid Textured Roller
- Spike Textured Roller
- Massager Stick
- Half-Round Massager
- Long Length
- Long-Medium Length
- Medium Length
- Medium-Short Length
- Short Length
- Ball Roller Bar
- Vibrating Foam Roller
Before we get started, we probably got off on the wrong foam roller; it’s important to understand there are many different types of foam roller on the market for a reason. And, while there may be a best foam roller for the number of benefits it brings your body, you should keep in mind your daily exercises and pain niggles as these are the factors that will ultimately decide which the best foam roller would be for your daily foam rolling routine.
For example: it can always be handy to have a mixture such as a medium-density foam roller, a ball roller and a massager stick, but we’ll go into more detail about each of these later on.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get started.
What is a Foam Roller?
A foam roller is an often tubular-shaped device made of either a polyethylene foam or an EVA foam.
Polyethylene foam is often used for the softer approach to caring for muscles and soreness, making it the best foam roller for someone just starting out with a new foam rolling technique. EVA foam, on the other hand, is firmer and more resistant to body weight, more cost-effective and a strong enough to stimulate deep tissue knots while stretching the body.
They can be bought in many shapes, sizes and colours but there are some key factors that might give away the game. For example: a white foam roller is often made using the polyethylene foam, a black foam roller is usually manufactured using the EVA foam and a brightly coloured roller tends to have a mixture of both for a medium-density approach.
As well as this, you may find some foam rollers having a hollow centre reinforced with a plastic tube to increase the durability of rolling your entire body over a cylindrical saver.
Beware, while they are a godsend for body restoration, they can be sore on the muscles while you use them!
What is the Purpose of a Foam Roller and Foam Rolling Routine?
The purpose of the best foam roller is to relieve your muscles of pain, stretch out the body and provide care to any tears from exercise. The fascia (connective tissue in the muscle) is very delicate and needs to be rolled to promote durability. And, while some may head to the masseuse for a deep-tissue massage, the foam roller provides an accessible (and affordable) at-home option.
Rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique which, when added as a pre-workout or post-workout foam rolling routine, will provide benefits such as:
- Ease Muscular Pain
- Prevent Muscle Stiffness
- Promote Cell Re-Growth
- Increase Range of Motion
- Reduce Appearance of Cellulite
- Manage Fibromyalgia Pain
- Relax the Mind
- Calm Back Pain
- Elevate Flexibility
- Improves Posture
- Expels Gas from Joints
- Redistributes Spinal Fluid
- Improves Blood Flow
However, it is not intended for use while pregnant, with a muscle break, over knee joints, over elbow joints or when ill. So, it can be best to speak with your GP or physician to ensure there’s nothing to stop you reaping the benefits of these simple-yet-effective deep tissue massage tools.
Where Did the Types of Foam Roller Come From?
Foam rollers aren’t as new of a concept as many would think; they date back to the 1920s.
During this period, a physician and martial artist named Moshe Feldenkrais discovered how to decrease localised pain when paying close attention to his body movements. Then, he invented a cylindrical foam device used to roll over affected areas of pain.
While this method was quested over the years by physicians, the 1980s brought about a popularity in the newfound Feldenkrais Method. 1987 even found one of the Feldenkrais Method students – a physician therapist named Sean Gallagher – using the roller for self-pain-relief.
Since then, the word spread across physicians and athletes around the globe.
However, it wasn’t until 2004 that the first foam roller was patented in America causing a mass popularity spike which would lead to over 1,000 types of foam roller to yield in just an Amazon search, alone.
What Are the Different Foam Roller Exercises? (180)
Foam roller exercises depend on the type of pain you’re experiencing, the location of the pain, the activities you engage with and the best foam roller you have for the job.
Here are some of the best foam roller exercises to use from head to toe:
- Upper Back Roll
- Tricep Roll
- Chest Roll
- Lat Roll
- Lower Back Roll
- Psoas Roll
- Glute Roll
- Groin/Inner Thigh Roll
- IT Band Roll
- Hamstring Roll
- Quadricep Roll
- Calf Roll
All you need is your roller and a flat open surface (such as your living room) for the job. Place your foam roller on the ground and sit cross-legged. With your back straight close your eyes and think about which areas are bringing the most pain and which areas could simply do with some TLC.
If, for example, you find your upper back needing some attention, you’ll need to lay onto the foam roller with the foam rolling routine beginning in the centre of your upper back. The foam roller should sit from arm to arm rather than from neck to lower back.
Place as much weight onto the foam roller as will feel comfortable, bend your knees while planting your feet firmly on the ground, place your hands across your torso, lift your head off the ground and begin to slightly push back and forth (using your feet) on the foam roller.
You may hear a couple of cracks; you may also begin to feel your upper back muscles instantly release the tension. This is normal as your joints are discharging pent-up spinal fluid and gas. Make sure you move slowly while continuing to breathe at a deep pace. You can continue this exercise for about 20-30 seconds before moving onto another body part using the same back-and-forth technique.
How Can A Foam Rolling Routine be Added to the Everyday?
It’s important to ensure you’re using the best foam roller for foam rolling exercises every day rather than only using the miracle cure after exercise or when pain spikes.
This is because foam rolling with the self-myofascial release (SMR) technique is a body-rehabilitation exercise which allows the body to continue to grow and re-generate to the best of its abilities. With this in mind, the optimum time to create a daily foam rolling routine for a deep tissue massage is in the morning after your body has had the time to stretch in the night.
While sleeping, our spines and joints don’t see the same gravitational pull as we do when awake. Because of this, we tend to be slightly taller in the morning, making it the perfect time to incorporate stretching, foam rolling exercises and any other daily yoga routines that can benefit the body.
Other times to use your foam roller would be to do a few light foam roller exercises after a physical activity so the muscles don’t seize and cause as much pain the next day.
Which is the Best Foam Roller for Certain Sports?
Choosing the best foam roller for you will be a matter of considering which activities you partake in and which areas of your body are giving you pain: as these two aspects can either intertwine or be completely unrelated.
When it comes to high-intensity cardio exercises such as running, you’re often using your legs, glutes and upper back whereas training at the gym can target any muscle you set your mind and machine to.
So, we’ve matched some of the different types of foam roller with the most popular sports with help from our activity-laden team here at The Hobby Kraze. Yet, for more information on each of the 16 types of foam roller, you’ll need to keep on reading:
- Running: A half-round massager, a low-density and a medium length.
- Cycling: A massager stick, a long length, a ball roller and a medium density.
- Horse Riding: A vibrating foam roller, a grid textured roller and a high-density.
- Bouldering: A ball roller, a ball roller bar, a medium-density and a grid textured roller.
- Kayaking: A massager stick, a high density, a vibrating foam roller and a ball roller.
- Stand-Up Paddle Boarding: A short length and a spike textured roller.
- Lacrosse: A ball roller bar, a massager stick and a medium-density.
- Rowing: A ball roller bar, a medium-density, a long length and a grid textured roller.
- Football (British): A medium-density, a medium length and a smooth roller.
- Football (American): A high-density, a spike textured roller and a vibrating foam roller.
- Tennis: A spike textured roller, a medium-short length and a ball roller (Top tip: many tennis players will simply use their own tennis balls on their shoulders and lats in place of a ball roller).
- Golf: A low-density, a half-round massager, a long-medium length and a ball roller bar.
What Are the 16 Types of Foam Roller?
As we’ve mentioned, there are 16 distinct types of foam roller for an at-home deep tissue massage in the areas most affected by physical activity. With that, it’s important you choose the right collection of foam rollers to suit your foam rolling routine; after all, a roll a day keeps the doctor away.
A low-density – or, soft – foam roller is made with a plastic material (often a polyethylene foam) that allows for lots of air bubbles, flexibility and a softness in the material perfect for newbies at a foam rolling routine.
This is simply because it is softer on the muscles and, while it doesn’t target hard knots, it can provide a gentle deep tissue massage enough to promote movement, flexibility and essential fluid distribution.
These types of foam roller tend to be smooth rather than textured as the key aim is to provide vital and calm care to sore areas of the body.
The most popular types of foam roller tend to be medium density, made with EVA plastic foam. This is because they provide the perfect in-between for the soft foam roller with high-durability and a textured approach.
The medium density foam roller is typically used by those who participate in cardio-based exercises to enable to muscles to relax, release tension and promote cell repair after pushing through exercise.
These are also the best foam roller to have rolling around for daily foam roller exercises that aren’t necessarily linked to recent exercise.
When in need of a deep tissue massage and self-myofascial release (SMR) that focuses on specific knots or muscles in the body, you’ll want a high-density foam roller.
Often, these are accompanied with a spike texture that gets into nooks in the muscle fibres to help release tension and promote relaxation.
While the most effective foam roller for dispersing pain and promoting better self-care, they can be much more painful to use. A top tip would be to not lift your entire body off the ground during foam roller exercises and simply place as much weight as needed on the roller.
Many high-density foam rollers will also feature a plastic-reinforced hollow for increased durability, making it the most cost-effective choice on the market.
The ball roller is a small ball, sometimes textured with spikes and other times smooth, typically used for on-the-go care. For example, a knot in the lat or trapezius muscle when playing tennis is effectively dissolved with the use of a ball roller (or, as mentioned, a tennis ball!).
These don’t require you to have a flat ground surface, either; they can be used against a wall. This makes them the best foam roller for small spaces or when using the ground to roll a muscle isn’t an option.
A smooth roller can be a fantastic solution for providing care to long muscles that don’t necessarily have knots but need flexibility, movement, tear repair and pre-emptive fluid dispersion. For example: lats, calves, thighs or hamstrings.
Smooth rollers are typically low or medium-density rollers simply because their aim is to provide a soft approach to self-myofascial release (SMR). So, they make for brilliant first-time foam rolling routine use.
The idea is, the more spikes and grooves there are on a foam roller, the more stimulation and localised attention it will pay to the muscles. And, between the spike textured roller and the smooth roller, the grid roller is the perfect mid-way point because it has a raised grid (often made with a medium or high-density plastic foam) in order to release tension in muscles that don’t have knots.
Alongside the medium-density foam roller, these are the most common foam roller you’ll see on the market due to their overall care to the body for many different activities.
Despite this, they are much-loved within the running and cardio-based exercise communities because they provide key lengthening rolling for muscles in the upper and lower leg as well as the upper back.
As mentioned, the spike textured roller is used to handle a deep tissue massage designed to release tight knots over the body, whether these are in the back, the groin, the lat or the calf.
In order to maintain durability in the roller and through each of the spikes, they’re often made with high-density EVA plastic foam.
However, these need to be approached with care as they can also be the most painful tool to use; begin by placing a small amount of body weight from the affected muscle onto the roller and roll for 10 seconds to see how the body responds. Then, increase the weight or the duration when ready.
The massager stick is typically a long and thin stick either with a row of balls or a row of mini-cylindrical rollers to provide a smoother approach to the skin and muscle.
They are generally made using a harder EVA plastic foam as they need to be sturdy for on-the-go use while enduring pressure from the handles. With this, the shapes can vary far more drastically than any other roller types.
For example, the best foam roller stick might have: spiked balls, smooth balls, smooth cylinders, spiked cylinders, lots of rolling components or just the one.
The massager stick is best incorporated into the daily foam rolling routine for someone who has a regular exercise schedule and is in need of an extra muscle-stimulant in the warm-up and warm-down part of the day. Such as: a runner, a team player, a yogi, an active teacher and so on.
The half round massager is designed to be used under the foot for targeted arch care.
Feet are used daily, from the generic commute to the after-work activities, and its key we can all take care of them. So, it’s advised to use a half-round massager just after getting up in the morning and just before getting back into bed after a long day.
The biggest advantage to these types of foam roller is their ability to be used in two ways to stimulate the foot and make sure we stay one step ahead in life and health.
The first way would be to place the foot over the round side of the roller, circling the ankle gently and slowly, allowing the arches to stretch. The second method would be to gain balance by trying to stand on the flat side of the roller to promote strong ankles.
Aside from general usage, they are also fair tools to promote strong posture; simply lay on the ground facing the ceiling and place the half-round foam roller under the upper back (flat surface down) to extend the spine and relax the muscles into a beneficial pose.
The long length foam rollers can reach up to 90cm in length and are typically very useful for those who need help with the back and leg muscles at it provides a big area to roll on without needing to worry about falling off the edges.
At around 65cm in length, these foam rollers are typically used for long muscles such as the lats, calves, hamstrings, glutes and psoas. This is because they can be versatile and not too thick, meaning less body weight needs to be lifted in the rolling process.
Having the average length of the best foam roller, they sit at around 45cm and can be used for many different muscles around the body. Here is where the diameter changes; these types of foam roller are generally thicker to allow for space between the floor and the body so more weight can easily be added to problem areas.
These are a favourite among the team here at The Hobby Kraze simply because they can be used on any muscle and their slightly smaller bodies make them a versatile choice for travel or on-the-go foam rolling. The medium-short length foam roller can be found at around 30cm so they can still be used across the whole back but are easier to use on smaller locations such as one leg, the chest, tricep or IT band.
The final length in the types of foam roller is the shortest, sitting at just 15cm. These will also be a slightly thinner diameter to make them more portable and useful for tight spots under the arm, under the neck and in the groin area. These are the best foam roller for foam roller exercises after training in a low-intensity and high-duration activity such as hiking or office working.
The ball roller bar is much like a stick but comes with feet so it can sit on the floor while being raised from the ground. They’ll often feature two spike textured balls in the middle of the bar unlike the massage featuring far more rolling components.
This design makes them beneficial for relaxing the muscles and tendons around the arms, lower legs and the neck.
Always one to save the best until last, the vibrating foam roller adds a little extra luxury to your at-home deep tissue massage foam rolling routine.
The vibrating feature is generally added to the roller ball, massage stick or the medium-length foam roller as they can provide extra stimulation to charge muscle re-growth over many areas of the body.
The vibration provides extra benefits such as promoting healthy blood flow and a faster recovery time.
However, while there are more positive sides to opting for a vibrating foam roller, it’s even more important to check with your GP or physician before use.
Knowing all this, finding the best foam roller for you should be a breeze. Let us know which roller you chose for your new daily deep tissue massage and foam rolling routine as well as why! Here at The Hobby Kraze, our team love to hear about the adventures and activities you get up to.
Alternatively, if you’re on the hunt for more ways to allow your body growth and regeneration, take a look at our “Ultimate Guide to Yoga for Daily Stretching and Stillness”.