Foam rollers are one of the best fitness and wellness tools to come along in a long time. I first started using rollers 20 years ago as a way to massage my back and legs, which helped me to recover faster from hard training. Later, as a Pilates instructor, I learned that the foam roller can also be used for centering work, training balance, and for working your core. Nowadays, athletes and professional sports teams swear by the rollers as part of their training and you can find them in just about every gym and sporting goods store.
The popularity of foam rollers has led to there being many different types of rollers available, which has made it difficult to know which kind is best for you. So, before we get into the exercises you can do with a foam roller, I want to give you some information about them, and then a list of some of the different kinds out there, along with an image and description for each, along with my personal recommendations.
2) Black High Density Foam Roller: 6” x 36” ($15-30)– This is a little harder than the white one, which is too hard for most people. It is basically the same material (hard Styrofoam), only black, so you can’t see the dirt as well (image 2).
3) EVA Foam Roller: 6” x 36” ($30-38) – a higher quality roller, EVA foam rollers are closed cell foam, firm but have a pliability that is much more comfortable than the standard rollers. They also keep their shape and are more durable as well. They come in marble blue or green colors, and also in blue with a textured hexagonal surface. (see images 3 and 4)
4) Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller: 6” x 12”, or 6” x 36” ($39.99) – a more expensive branded foam roller made differently in that it has a hard plastic inner shell that is coated by a molded rubber coating with patterned ridges. I have this one and truthfully, I find it a little hard and the ridges don’t seem to make any difference (see image 5).
5) Rumble Roller: 6” x 12”, or 6” x “36 ($45-75) – This roller is also made with a hard inner shell that is coated with hard molded rubber. The big difference is the large “bumps” on the roller that people use to press into the knots or trigger points on their legs and hips. I also own this one, and it is not suitable for use on your back, just with your hips and legs, and only if you can take intense pain (see image 6).
From my experience, a large EVA foam roller is the most user-friendly roller that most people should start out with. Normally, I would recommend using Amazon to find these, but the choices are very confusing and it is not easy to know the quality of the items. Also, it is a good idea to get a Foam Roller exercise book or poster that illustrates and explains how to use it properly. To that end, you can get both a high-quality EVA foam roller with an illustrated poster of exercises for only $35 at this website link http://www.yogilates.com/store/p28/Deluxe_Foam_Roller_with_Workout_Poster.html
FOAM ROLLER EXERCISE VIDEOS:
To get you started learning how to use a foam roller, I have created three video tutorials on my YOUTUBE CHANNEL that show you some basic lower-body massage work, some core work, and some centering exercises. All the exercises are suitable for beginners, but if you have any special conditions, such as osteoarthritis, back pain, or balance issues, I recommend you talk to your health professional for advice before trying the exercises.
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MFA, Certified Pilates Instructor and ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Dancer/Choreographer, Triathlete, Veteran Yoga Practitioner. Also educated in economics and environmental science