The Best Foam Rollers | How to Use a Foam Roller

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The best foam rollers are an integral part of any workout regime. Or at least, any workout regime that doesn’t involve you walking around in abject discomfort for days afterwards, groaning like a wounded bull every time you lift your arms. Foam rollers are simple devices that make a big difference to muscle recovery, improving joint function and massaging away the feelings of tightness so many of us feel after a gym session (and they’re great for pre-workout prep, too).

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked Ollie Thompson, a senior PT and wellness coach at luxury London personal training gym Six3Nine, to give us the lowdown on why you should be investing in one of the best foam rollers on the market.

What are the benefits of foam rollers?

“One of the most common benefits of foam rolling is in regards to treating areas of discomfort, such as sore muscles,” says Thompson. “The improved muscle tone, circulation and acute mind-muscle connection foam rolling will encourage can massively help alleviate the soreness (DOMs) you may feel in your muscles a day or two following a tough workout.”

The muscle holds protective tension, and it’s a foam rollers job to ease it by sending signals to the brain and, as a result, nervous system, that the tension is no longer needed.

“An easy analogy I often use with my clients is to imagine your nervous system is using a handbrake on your muscles,” says Thompson. “The handbrake on your muscles restricts range of motion because your body considers it vulnerable. By using protocols such as foam rolling, other trigger point therapy methods, warm baths etc. you’re telling your brain it’s safe and to ease off the brakes.”

What different kinds of foam rollers are there, and which type is best?

There are many different types of foam rollers available, as you’ll see below, and Thompson points out that some will have more padding while others will have a more aggressive tread. But at the end of the day, developing the right technique is the thing you should be focusing on.

“In my opinion, the type of foam roller you use isn’t hugely important. My go-to would always be a fairly well-padded small one, and a favourite of mine is the Trigger Point. However, if you feel that a longer roller could benefit you or you’re feeling brave enough to use a roller with thicker tread then feel free.

“Ultimately, I think it comes down to how effectively you’re using it. To reap the true benefits from your foam roller, you should be gliding very slowly (1-inch per 2-seconds), identifying particularly sensitive areas and allowing yourself time to sink into that spot, slowing down your breathing and most importantly, holding adequate pressure long enough for your body to reduce the protective tension, down-regulate and re-calibrate the muscle tone back into a relaxed state.”

That doesn’t mean punishing yourself, either. “Effective foam rolling should be intentional and quite a relaxing experience, not a test of your ability to handle pain. If you’re uncomfortably gritting your teeth and holding your breath, you’ll likely tense up and potentially do more damage than good.”

What are the best foam roller movements?

“My recommendation would be to target your larger, most dominant muscles primarily used the most during your day-to-day activities and workouts. For example, lower body muscles such as your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes. For your upper body, I would focus primarily on your lats and upper back muscles.

“I usually focus on my lower body first, ensuring I spend adequate time and attention on the glutes and calves especially as these muscles are used a lot when we walk. As well as the hamstrings as they play a vital role in reducing the risk of back pain. Keeping those posterior muscles well recovered and in good shape is important when it comes to injury risk and longevity.”

The Best Foam Rollers of 2022

1

Theragun Wave Roller

An innovative design from a brand that’s best known for its massage gun line-up, the Bluetooth-enabled Wave Roller super-charges recovery by way of powerful vibration therapy, and you can personalise your recovery routines through the dedicated app.

2

TriggerPoint Grid Roller

Trigger Point Grid
amazon.co.uk

£33.81

Recommended by our recovery expert Ollie Thompson, the TriggerPoint is a rugged roller with a multi-density exterior that offers a thorough massage experience. It also comes with access to an online library of pre-and-post-workout exercises.

3

Nike Recovery Foam Roller

An understated, lightweight and altogether less bumpy offering from Nike, perfect for gentler (but no less effective) warm-ups and cool downs.

4

Meglio Foam Roller

An extremely affordable and trustworthy model from Meglio with a range of textures for different pressures and exercises, it keeps its shape under pressure and comes with a handy carry case (it’s also very lightweight).

5

Lululemon Double Roller Mini

Something a little different from Lululemon. We like the marbled colourway, but we like the innovative design even more: the grooved exterior is used to massage arms and legs, while the inner roller (which slots into the hollow middle of the exterior) is used to target tension in your back.

6

Theragun Wave Duo

Another innovation from Therabody, the Wave Duo is contoured for your spine, back and neck – but it’s also very effective for releasing tension in other muscles, like your quad or triceps. It comes with five vibration settings for full versatility, too.

7

Tiger Tail

Unorthodox but effective. The Tiger Tail’s smooth but firm roll design provides a deep tissue massage with an even distribution, and can be used across the whole body. At 13.6 ounces, it’s also one of the most portable rollers on the market.

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