Well hey there! I hope this finds you feeling wonderful while you sit down to read
about foam rollers!
Do you enjoy receiving a massage, stretching, or soaking in a hot tub after a hard workout or a long hike? Well, foam rolling is basically all three of these things rolled into one easy to access quick remedy. It can feel sooo good to unwind and roll out tight hips or a tight back (or basically any muscle in your body.) So, personally I think a foam roller is pretty high up on the list of must-haves.
Hey there, my name is Linnea. I am the owner and founder of Limber Arts Pilates and Personal Training here in Olympia. I also offer a lot of virtual services worldwide. So you can find me online from anywhere and you can find me locally here in Olympia, Washington.
What’s So Great About a Foam Roller?
There's so much that can be done with a foam roller! I absolutely love a good foam roller. They are a go-to staple for me, both in my own workouts and with my clients. It's one of the top things I like to suggest that folks have at home. Today I'm going to talk specifically about a few different brands, a few different options, and things to look at if you're looking into buying a foam roller or looking to get re-inspired to use yours more. By the way, I am not an affiliate for any of these brands, this is all just my personal preferences.
Benefits for Individuals with Nagging Injuries and Chronic Pain
Let's look specifically at the value of foam rolling for folks with nagging old injuries, and chronic back pain. You might find that you're not recovering as quickly from bumps and bruises as you once did, or that stiff muscles can stick around for months if not years.
I like to think of a foam roller as your own personal massage therapist (although it isn’t a replacement for a great bodyworker!) It will help you be able to keep playing hard and keep up with your favorite activities. There's a couple things that I like to suggest when it comes to looking for the perfect foam roller.
Key Considerations when Choosing a Foam Roller
Length: Optimal Versatility with Full-Length Rollers
Across the board, my top suggestion is to purchase a full length foam roller. That’s going to be 36 inches. You want a 36 inch long foam roller which is pretty long compared to what you might find just at your average store or online. The shorter ones are valuable if you're only rolling out some tight hips, but it doesn't have nearly the same amount of versatility as a full length roller. The versatility that you get from a full length one is two fold.
First off, you can do a lot more mobility work. So, not only can you use it the same as you would a shorter roller, but you can also lay on it lengthwise. So, you literally lay your whole spine on the roller and it's simply incredible for a stiff achy back, it’s incredible for anyone with postural concerns or spinal injuries and misalignments. Or basically anyone who sits at a computer. (yup, I see you)
Secondly, a full length roller is also ideal for core strength. A hallmark of Pilates, especially Pilates that you can do at home, is going to include a lot of exercises where you lay lengthwise on the foam roller. It's fabulous for your posture and you can do a lot of dead bugs variations, dead bugs are a pretty common exercise, but a lot of people don't know what they are, it is a classic core strengthening exercise with many variations. And the variations of dead bug that you can do on a foam roller are worth their weight in gold.
Density: Finding the Right Balance for Your Needs
So again, I’m not affiliated with any brands here, but the basic amazon brand is the one I have here. It is full length, and it is also very dense. What I like about the density is that it allows you to have a little more stability and structure if you want to do some more strengthening exercises. There are a lot of strengthening exercises that you can do on a foam roller, not just rolling out tight muscles, and the strengthening exercises are going to work better with a dense roller. Plus, if it’s too firm you can always place a blanket or pillow over it to make it softer. Here’s a link to a higher density, affordable roller.
This reminds me of a fun story that I'll share with you all. I had a client coming into the studio and we were doing a lot of release work on the foam roller, mainly focused on releasing her tight quadriceps (which are often tight for most people who sit a lot). I mentioned to her that I was thinking about doing an entire hour-long class on the foam roller and she cracked up and thought it was the silliest thing she’d ever heard of. You see, she couldn't imagine doing an entire hour long class with the roller because she thought it was only for rolling out some tight muscles for a few minutes.
This story just drives home my point, which is tha,t yes… the foam roller is so versatile and useful that there is an entire repertoire of exercises. You could easily consider it your main piece of equipment for an entire workout session! You can do strengthening, you can do mobility work, standing balance work, and more.
So, having that much versatility is going to depend on the density of the foam roller. With that said, there's a number of other foam rollers that are going to be softer and more comfortable which may be a better fit for some needs. If you're somebody that tends to be a little bit sensitive to hard surfaces, or if you have osteoporosis then you may want to consider a slightly softer roller. This roller is a nice medium density. The darker blue is even softer, and the pink one is very very soft. The light blue is a good multi use density while still being firm. The OPTP brand is generally considered the definitive professional brand when it comes to foam rollers.
It can be nice to even consider having two different density levels. One that's a bit more firm and one that's really soft. Now there's a lot of foam rollers out there that have gotten very popular, that have tons of spikes, bumps, and divots.
I don't have anything against it, but I also just can't recommend this version of a roller. If you have a foam roller that's got all these big bumps and spikes on it, then that's great. It's just basically a one-trick pony because it's going to be so firm and so intense that you're probably only going to want to use it to roll out a few areas of your body and then that's all you'll ever want to do with it. This is another reason why I like the high density, firm roller because they're dense enough to give you that deeper tissue release work, but they aren’t t so intense that they make it hard to breathe.
Transportability: Portable Options for On-the-Go Use
The last thing I want to mention is transportability. A full length roller can be a bit bulky, you wouldn't want to take it on an airplane, but if you're taking a road trip, if you're going to the Airbnb for the weekend, it's an easy enough thing that you can throw into the car.
A shorter foam roller can be really nice for space saving and travel, although even a short roller you wouldn’t pack in a suitcase. For that type of travel I would suggest an inflatable core ball, yoga tune up balls, or something smaller like that.
There is a really cool water bottle that doubles as a roller. So if you know you like a good foam roller, then this might be a lovely thing to add to your collection, or it makes for a great gift as well. Here’s the link to the Foam Roller Water Bottle. PS my birthday is coming up next month, ha ha! And honestly, if you are the kind of person who just needs to add a little more flexibility work into your lifestyle, but your often on the go, then this might be a total winner for you.
Additionally the Rollga roller is a really nice version, you can’t lay on it lengthwise, but it does offer a really nice design for muscle release work and it feels amazing on the back and neck.
Let’s get rolling
So there you have it. This might be more than you ever wished to know about a foam roller! Essentially, I think everyone could benefit from a long, 36” foam roller that you can lay down on, especially if you work at a computer.
Density is important when it comes to a good roller, and what you can do with it will depend on the type of roller you purchase.
Comment below. I'd love to know what you have at home for a foam roller, or if you don't have a foam roller at home, are you thinking about getting one? What is your favorite version of a foam roller? Do you have more than one? I want to know all about it!!
You might enjoy a previous blog article I wrote entitles, "Foam Rolling and Foot Pressures" this is an excellent post that will help guide you in your quest for total body liberation and peak performance.