The foam roller is a cylinder of dense foam, normally 6 inches in diameter and between 1 and 3 feet long, though there are variations on this design. . By putting the foam roller on the floor and lying on it, you apply a portion of your body weight to the contact area between your body and the roller.
1 Massage Techinques
The foam roller can be used on a number of muscles; for details look at Massage.
- The quads. I find the foam roller is ideal for massaging the quads. They are a large muscle group that requires a lot of pressure to get deep enough to reach Trigger Points that lie further below the surface.
- ITB and Tensor Fascia Latae. This is a classic use of the foam roller, but remember to Massage high enough to reach the TFL. See Iliotibial band syndrome for more details.
- Back. The foam roller can help stretch the back, and provides some level of Massage.
- Hamstrings. I find it hard to Massage the hamstrings with the foam roller, as the muscle ends up being under tension. I prefer The Stick for hamstrings.
- Hip Flexors. The hip flexors are always hard to Massage, and the foam roller can be used to get to parts of the hip flexor inside of the iliac (hip) crest. I prefer to use my hands for the hip flexor.
- Calves. The foam roller works for the calves, but The Stick or your own knee works better.
2 Types of Foam Roller
I have three different foam rollers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
2.1 High Density Foam
This is the 'standard' foam foller and work well for most types of Massage. The standard length of 36 inches makes it long enough to work areas like your back. I found that many of the rollers have foam that breaks down over time and becomes soft, but this version lasts much longer. It's from Amazon.com.
2.2 TriggerPoint GRID
This is a shorter roller and is a hard cylinder covered with a thinner layer of foam. It is much firmer than a standard roller and the surface has cut outs to create areas of greater pressure. Overall this works well, but the different areas are rather small, and the length is short so you have to keep repositioning yourself on the roller as you Massage different areas of a muscle. I mostly use it for travel, when I can stuff it with clothes so it takes up little room. It's available for $34 from Amazon.com.
This roller has protrusions that apply greater pressure to some areas; much greater pressure than the GRID roller. This can help provide much deeper Massage, but the spacings of the bumps makes it hard to get them in just the right spot. I use mine occasionally, but mostly I use my traditional roller. It's currently $45 for the shorter original density at Amazon.com. I would not recommend the firmer density as the original is pretty intense.