Muscle Roller Guide: What are Muscle Rollers?

What are Muscle Rollers?

The purpose and use of muscle rolling is fairly straight-forward. These types of devices have not only increased in popularity, but with that, have also increased in the variety of muscle rollers now offered on the market.

There are tons of varieties including; foam (with different hardness's), varying lengths of muscle roller sticks, hand-held devices (great for portability and travel), and even more specific types that are suppose to focus on different parts of the body more effectively. So what do these simple devices actually do? Well according to Healthline (2019), foam rolling is a "self-myofascial release technique or SMR technique" which in laments terms is similar to massaging your muscles.

myofascial release with muscle rollers

The point of this technique is to relieve muscle tension, tightness (trigger points or knots), help with soreness, inflammation, increase your joint range of motion, and really aid in the recovery of muscles that may have been damaged from workouts, or even just your normal everyday functions.

By using a foam roller or other type of hand held muscle roller you can focus on these trigger points/knots and help to break them up in a sense to relieve that tension. By continual use of foam muscle rollers, an individual can help keep collagen from binding between layers of muscle tissues.

Foam Muscle Roller

When Do I Use Muscle Rollers?

Muscle Rollers are most often used during your warm up or cool down of you pre or post workout session, however I see many people and athletes using these devices at different times throughout the day (especially if you have a hand-held muscle roller or stick which are more portable then other bulky foam rollers).

I have actually used them before work, specifically on my legs because this is an area of my body that gets extremely tight for me 12-24 hours after a workout, and it really helps release some of that tightness before heading into the job. The idea is to be as consistent with them as possible on those problem areas.

Muscle Roller

Benefits of Foam Rollers?

Like many of these types of massage devices, not everyone will have the same outcomes. There are increasing amounts of research when it comes to the use of muscle rollers, including foam rollers, muscle roller massage sticks, and other types of these devices.

One such article from The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (2015), which underwent an appraisal of current evidence concluded that: a. SMR using foam rollers may have short term effects of increasing joint range of motion without decreasing muscle performance; b. reduce perceived pain after short bouts of intense exercise; c. using foam rollers for SMR prior to exercise has no negative effects on muscle performance.

Research also suggests that there needs to be more "high quality" studies in regards to SMR using muscle rollers (foam rollers) in the future to validate these findings.

Foam rollers also have the ability of increasing blood flow to your muscles and can help create better mobility (HuffPost, n.d). Better mobility is usually a good indication that a muscle is going to perform better with more vigorous and strenuous exercise and will ultimately improve performance.

Can it help with physical relaxation? Many people simply use this technique and these rollers to help them relax after workouts, however there is not a ton of research out there that muscle rollers actually help with relaxation after workouts. McCall (2017), from ACE Fitness discusses this concept of relaxation as it pertains to muscle rollers and the benefit this can play psychologically on individuals post-workout.

benefits of muscle rolling

Another study out of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science (2014) examined the use of foam muscle rollers on the reduction of stress by measuring serum concentration of cortisol. This particular study found little evidence to show there was a difference or a reduction in stress levels more then resting in general, post workout. Again more research is certainly needed to make any strong conclusions and correlations about stress effects on the body.

According to The Journal of Athletic Training (2015), three 20-minute bouts of foam rolling can enhance recovery after DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and alleviate muscle tenderness. This was a study conducted in 2015 which examined foam rolling after intense exercise as a recovery tool.

Simple Tips when Using Muscle Rollers?

a. Target the area around where you are feeling soreness and gradually move towards the effected area. Ease your way into the problematic spot

b. Slower is better. There is a myth out there that rolling over the sore area with faster strokes is better. This is not the case, short slow motions and rolls over the muscles gives your mind some time to relax as well, and to concentrate on actually relaxing the muscle.

c. Posture. Many people don't think about posture when using a muscle or foam roller. Posture plays a big part in this process.

d. Make sure if you are new to this to get educated or seek guidance from a personal trainer for positioning tips.

We hope you enjoyed this post on muscle rollers. These are very effective tools in my arsenal for keeping myself loose and feeling great pre and post workouts. If you're interested in these devices and till unsure how to use these foam or other hand-hand muscle rollers, make sure to seek out professional advice from a certified trainer. We hope to have you again soon to RN to Zen, if you like our posts be sure to share our posts along your social media pages, thanks!


Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong? (2014, March 18). Retrieved from

Chertoff, J. (2019, August 19). Foam Roller Benefits, Risks, and How To. Retrieved from

Gregory E. P. Pearcey, David J. Bradbury-Squires, Jon-Erik Kawamoto, Eric J. Drinkwater, David G. Behm, and Duane C. Button (2015) Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training: January 2015, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 5-13.

McCall, P. (2017, September 28). 6 Benefits of Using Foam Rollers. Retrieved from

Kim, K., Park, S., Goo, B.-O., & Choi, S.-C. (2014, November). Effect of Self-myofascial Release on Reduction of Physical Stress: A Pilot Study. Retrieved from

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