Foam Rolling and How To Choose One


Foam Rollers: hot topic, great for runners, awesome for tight IT Bands, but how much does the average person know about how to use them, let alone which one is best for their needs? When you go to the sports store, you find at least 6 different types of these self-inflicted torture devices, all with various labels, from different companies that you have never heard about. So how do you know which one to choose?

All foam rollers can be broken down into three categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

From Right to Left: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Foam Rollers
From Left to Right: Advanced, Medium, Beginner

Find The Right Foam Roller For You

Beginner foam rollers can be easy to spot. They are smooth all around and decently soft. This allows the person using them to ease into the foam rolling world. The amount of pressure applied to the body while rolling will be spread out over the entire area, which means less tenderness when rolling. This is a great starting spot to help you learn proper rolling techniques.

Intermediate foam rollers will be labeled as "firm" and have small raised portions of the foam, usually a quarter of an inch in length. These raised portions help you to work deeper into the muscles and work out more adhesions. If it is your first time using an intermediate foam roller, it is best to have a transition phase. During the transition phase, use the beginner foam roller first on the area you are rolling, then switch over to the intermediate foam roller. Once you feel that the beginner foam roller isn't working as well for you, switch over to the intermediate foam roller full time.

The advanced foam roller has larger raised portions (sometimes half an inch to a full inch). They are also labeled "extra firm." It is not recommended that you start with this foam roller, instead, work up to it over a couple of months when you feel like the intermediate foam roller is no longer working as well for you as it used to. Upgrading to the next type of foam roller too quickly can be discouraging and wind up in a set back if you are no longer as willing to use your equipment as often as you used to.

What About the Various Sizes
Not only do foam rollers come in different degrees of firmness, like a pillow they also come in different sizes. One that is roughly two feet in length is great for general purposes and daily use. If you need to have one for travel, they also come in shorter lengths with smaller diameters. The smaller ones are good for a quick tune up prior to a competition, but are not practical for day to day use.

How Do Foam Rollers Work
By applying direct pressure, you can use foam rollers to release trigger points and as a form of myofascial release. Pressure should never be applied above a six out of ten on a pain scale.

Both ischemic pressure (direct pressure that doesn't move) and gentle rolling can be used to release trigger points and adhered fascia. Possible side effects can include tenderness and some bruising, so always use these types of tools with caution.

Find The Right Foam Roller For You

Corinne D. Bracko-Douglas, CMT, LMT, CKTP is the owner of Dochas Clinical Massage Therapy based out of Columbia, MO. She received her diploma in Clinical Massage Therapy from The Soma Institute in Chicago, IL in 2004. She enjoys teaching others about how to live a healthy lifestyle and still works one on one with clients out of her private clinic. When not working as a therapist she can be found enjoying trail hikes with her wonderful husband, Lee, and their adorable doggos, Shadow and Koda, or trying out fun new workouts to expand her knowledge of the human body and how it functions.

The advice given in these articles is not meant to diagnose. Please always consult with a health care provider before performing any of the techniques described upon yourself.


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