Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Which foam roller is right for you?

The first foam rollers to come out were exactly that, 3-foot pieces of white foam. That has all changed. Google "foam roller" and 10 different pictures pop up.

Which foam roller is right for you?

Rumble roller pictured above.
Rumble roller pictured above. via roguefitness.com

The world of foam rolling has evolved since I became a subscriber over ten years ago. The first foam rollers to come out were exactly that, 3-foot pieces of white foam. There were no alternatives. If I told someone to go and purchase a foam roller they did. There were no questions surrounding which one, how are they different, and which one is for me? That has all changed. Google “foam roller” and 10 different pictures pop up.

Many people discontinue foam rolling because they find it too painful. True, foam rolling can and sometimes should hurt but that is not always the case. It is certainly not the case if it means you do not do it. Foam rolling should be done every day, whether healthy or injured, for at least 10 minutes. Choosing the correct foam roller will help you adhere to the regime and prevent injuries.

It is also recommended that you have more than one foam roller. One should be gentler, like the white or black foam which will allow it to be used whether injured, recovering from an injury or every day maintenance and one that is more aggressive like the Rumble Roller. The Rumble Roller should be able to be used on a daily basis when there is no pain. Here is a basic list of the different types of foam rollers that are available and which one might be right for you.

  1. Standard, white foam roller. This is a usually 3 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. This is the easiest and gentlest of the foam rollers. It can be used on almost anyone. This is a good one if you have not started foam rolling because it hurts too much. While it still may be uncomfortable on this one you will find that it is much less then on the more aggressive foam rollers.
  2. Black foam roller. This looks just like the white foam roller, but uses a higher density foam. This is one I recommend purchasing to have as your go-to foam roller if you are injured and cannot tolerate one of the firmer foam rollers. This will maintain its form and still provide you with a great roll out.
  3. The Grid. This is a step up from the black foam roller. It has very little give to it and if you are nursing a sore muscle it can be painful. This is not a great starting point, but it is a good roller to have when you move past being able to tolerate more than just foam.
  4. Firm rumble roller. You need to be healthy to have this, but it is a fantastic tool for any athlete. I highly recommend purchasing this model or the extra-firm as your go-to, everyday roller. This is excellent for getting into hamstrings and gastroc muscles that may be sore as well as helping to correct illiotibial band issues and piriformis pain.
  5. Extra firm rumble roller. This is the most aggressive foam roller on the market. Yes, it has extra firm spikes on it. A better self massage tool does not exist. It will aid in keeping your muscles pliable and ready to go. This one should only be used when you have worked your way up to it, it can be very painful.

All of these are available at our website www.totalperformancept.com. No matter what type of foam roller you purchase, if you are an athlete of any kind it is imperative that you add foam rolling to your daily routine to help keep you injury free in 2014.


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Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales and Hatfield, PA
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Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Ellen Casey, MD Physician with Drexel University Sports Medicine
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director of The Center For Sport Psychology; Sports Psychology Consultant for 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Martin J. Kelley, PT, DPT, OCS Advanced Clinician at Penn Therapy and Fitness, Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales and Hatfield, PA
Kelly O'Shea Senior Health Producer, Philly.com
Tracey Romero Sports Medicine Editor, Philly.com
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation; Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute
Thomas Trojian MD, CAQSM, FACSM Associate Chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at Drexel University
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