Massage Rolls: What Is It, How Useful, How To Use

Massage Rolls reviews - Ecouponsdeal

The world learned about massage rolls relatively recently. Surely you have seen these multi-colored cylinders more than once: soft or made of dense foam, smooth or with toothy protrusions. It is believed that gymnastics using massage rolls has a beneficial effect on health and helps restore muscle tone.

But are massage rolls good for runners, or is it just another fleeting trend in the fitness industry? Let’s try to understand this article.

What are massage rolls and balls

These are special devices that are used primarily for recovery procedures after stress. By point acting on tissues, massagers allow you to eliminate pain after training or long sedentary work.

What are massage rolls and balls -

Most athletes are aware of the importance of massage courses. Someone could make sure from their own experience that the skillful hands of a specialist literally bring back to life a marathon runner who has left all his strength at a distance. But not everyone and not always have the opportunity to undergo such procedures on a regular basis. 

A replacement, at least partial, in this case will be self-massage. As the name implies, this is an independent effect on tissues using various devices: rollers, massage rolls, prickly balls. For regular exercises, you will need a minimum of equipment, and the benefits of such procedures will be very great.

The technique of deep muscle relaxation during self-massage is called myofascial release.

What are massage rolls

Sports companies produce a huge range of devices for self-massage. Accessories may differ in the presence or absence of handles, the degree of relief, diameter. Larger rolls and balls are convenient to use at home or in the gym, and small ones can be taken with you to training camps or competitions.

massage rolls

Consider the main types of massage rolls.


It is made of foamed polyurethane and does not have ribbed protrusions. Acquaintance with massage rollers is better to start with just such a model. Due to its softness, it can be used on almost any part of the body: it exerts even and gentle pressure.

It is actively used in Pilates and fitness. 

With fine relief

Suitable for light self-massage and relieving muscle tension after a sedentary load.


Most popular with athletes. Depending on the stiffness and height of the ribs for myofascial release, you can choose an option with a strong or moderate degree of pressure on the skin.

There are also rolls with an uneven coating that mimics different types of pressure during massage. The surface of such rolls is divided into sections and squares of different areas.

With vibration

Allows you to work out problem areas as much as possible and stretch clogged muscles. Especially convenient are wireless models that run on batteries.

These rolls are suitable for people with different physiques, however, it should be borne in mind that massage with such equipment can be very sensitive out of habit. Although some users, on the contrary, note that the vibration of the roll distracts from pain.

What is myofascial release

Muscles in the body are not on their own. They are surrounded by a special connective tissue – fascia. As the films divide a tangerine or an orange into slices, so the muscles are divided by fascia into separate groups. It is from the fascia, and not only from the work of the muscles themselves, that our movements, their painlessness and amplitude depend.

What is myofascial release - Ecouponsdeal

In response to injury, repetitive movement or prolonged immobility, the fascia can lose its elasticity. This leads to pain and a feeling of stiffness.

Myofascial release (MFR) is a special technique that allows you to relax the tissues. It helps to warm up before training and recover faster after it. 

By pressing the trigger points, the clamps in the muscles and fascia are eliminated. This allows you to restore the elasticity of movement and allow the fascia to slide freely relative to each other. Mechanical action prevents adhesions, reduces swelling and provides lymphatic drainage.

Benefits of massage rolls for runners

Professional athletes often mention the importance of relaxing routines in their interviews. Performing different types of training, gaining mileage is also important, but this is not enough for sports results. Recovery procedures are needed, among which massage is not the last.

Surely you have seen how, after the race to the masseurs in the finishing town, huge queues line up. And professional runners take a massage roller with them, even if they fly to competitions with hand luggage. Because you can refuse spare clothes, but not daily self-massage.

Benefits of massage rolls for runners -

For runners, MFR is primarily relevant for quick recovery after heavy loads. This is especially important during multi-day competitions or at sports camps. 

For runners, massage rolls will help to solve the following problems:

  • preparing muscles for training
  • fast recovery after exercise
  • elimination of stiffness and pain
  • gentle stretching at the end of class
  • rehabilitation after injuries

When is the best time to use

Massage rolls and balls can be used before, after and even during training. MFR cannot be considered an equivalent replacement for sports massage or stretching, but in any case it will effectively complement the training process.

Even if you manage to regularly give exercises for 10-15 minutes, the body will be grateful for it. You will feel that the muscles recover faster, and the unpleasant feeling of stiff legs goes away.

Depending on the time of use, self-massage with the help of rolls has different goals:

  1. Before workout. The main task is to gently warm up the muscles, prepare the body for the load. Rolls and balls with soft teeth will help disperse the blood and cheer up.
  2. During a workout. Roll rolling can be used as a stretching element.
  3. After workout. It is important to feel for the clamps and massage precisely these pain points. At the moment of pressing, discomfort may occur, but this will prevent the further appearance of adhesions. 

Do I need to use after every workout

The more regularly you use MFR techniques, the less likely you are to develop fascial adhesions and muscle tightness. It is not necessary to practice with massage rolls and balls every day, but it will bring great benefits to the body.

Of course, this is all ideal. In practice, most recreational runners are forced to squeeze their workouts into a tight daily schedule so much that there is barely enough time to even hitch. Therefore, it is often necessary to refuse additional restorative procedures, despite all their benefits. In this case, you can start small and try to do self-massage at least after high-speed work and competition. 

How to use correctly

Self-massage techniques using balls and rolls are simple and easy to learn. Men and women of any complexion can use MFR techniques, the main thing is to follow a few simple rules:

  1. Move slowly, working through every inch of skin. This way you will definitely not miss trigger points that require close attention. Each zone should take at least 20-30 seconds.
  2. When working out different areas of the body, it is necessary to follow the “bottom up” rule: first roll the roller over the calves, then over the hips, and only then over the back.
  3. Choose rolls and massage balls of such rigidity that you feel comfortable exercising. Excessive pain should not be tolerated, as this does not affect the effectiveness of the massage at all.
  4. Breathe evenly and deeply, without holding air in your lungs.
  5. With caution, massage devices should be used in areas of the lymph nodes and where the bones are close to the skin with a minimum of adipose and muscle tissue, that is, on the wrists, ankles, elbows.

Exercise examples 

For calf and soleus muscles

We sit on the floor and put our straight legs on the roller. We lean on straight arms and raise the pelvis. Without falling back, we begin to roll the roller under the calves. The legs must remain straight.

For calf and soleus muscles - Ecouponsdeal

For hamstrings

The starting position is the same as in the previous exercise. The roller is located under the hips. When moving forward and backward, the hamstrings are actively involved, which with the help of this technique become more elastic.

For hamstrings -

Inner thigh

Starting position: bar with support on the elbows. We bend one leg and place a massage roll under it. Gently roll it from side to side and then repeat the exercise for the other leg.

Inner thigh - Ecouponsdal

Anterior thigh

Starting position: bar with support on the elbows. We place the roller under the hips and roll back and forth, trying to maintain balance.

Anterior thigh - Ecouponsdeal

Gluteal muscles

We sit on the roller, leaning on straight arms behind our backs. The legs are slightly bent. We begin to move with a small amplitude, rolling the roll under the buttocks back and forth. If you have already mastered this exercise, try a more difficult version of it: relying on one leg and arm.

Gluteal muscles - Ecouponsdeal

Upper shoulder girdle

Lying on your back, bend your knees, place the massage roll under the shoulder blades. We raise the buttocks and start rolling back and forth. Make sure that the massage takes place only in the area of ​​​​the upper shoulder girdle, without affecting the lumbar region.

Upper shoulder girdle - Ecouponsdeal

What can be massaged with rolls

Devices for self-massage can be used in all areas where large muscles and muscle groups are located. Runners should pay special attention to:

  • feet (rolling a roll or a prickly ball under the foot)
  • calf muscles
  • muscles of the back and front of the thigh
  • gluteal muscles
  • latissimus dorsi muscles.

There are two key techniques for using massage rollers. In the first, rolling is done with soft movements from the bottom up: for example, when the roller is located under the calves. In the second case, the roller rolls from side to side, while pressing the trigger points occurs in a different order.

How to choose massage rolls

The range of devices for self-massage is huge, and it can be difficult to navigate it out of habit. It seems that all these videos are about the same and differ only in price and color. How to choose among this variety the best cylinder that suits you? Pay attention to 4 nuances.

1. Size

Most massage rolls have a diameter of 12-15 cm. This is the optimal size, suitable for massaging almost all areas of the body. By length, you can distinguish between long rolls, standard size rolls and mini-rolls:

  • standard rolls (50-60 cm long) are suitable for massaging calves, quadriceps, gluteal muscles. This is the most versatile size, but it is not very convenient to take it with you on trips: it will take up half the suitcase.
  • mini-rolls (up to 30 cm long) are used to release small muscle groups. They are comfortable to massage the neck or hands.
  • long rolls (up to 100 cm long) are convenient for working out the back muscles.

2. Degree of hardness

Acquaintance with MFR should begin with softer options in order to get used to the feeling of pressure on the tissues:

  • soft rolls are actively used in stretching and Pilates and are suitable for beginners
  • rolls of medium hardness – the most versatile
  • hard ones are used by experienced athletes for an intense effect on trigger points.

3. Texture

The type and number of spines on the roller directly affects the massage process: it is these ribs and waves that will imitate the massage therapist’s fingers during release. 

4. Material

In order for the inventory to serve for a long time and to use it comfortably, it must be made of high-quality material. The cheapest rolls and balls can be found from Chinese manufacturers, but not all of them will stand the test of time. Due to poor-quality material, the rolls begin to crumble, squeeze through during exercises and miss.

Products of well-known companies are more expensive, but will be more durable. Quality rolls are made from lightweight EVA rubber, high density polypropylene (EPP) or polyurethane foam.

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When not to use massage rolls

Specialists do not recommend MFR for the following diagnoses and conditions:

  • the presence of open wounds, rashes, hematomas in the massage area
  • bone fractures, postoperative period
  • oncological diseases
  • hypertension
  • phlebeurysm
  • diabetes
  • severe degree of scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • blood clotting disorders
  • pregnancy

If you have any doubts or atypical sensations, it is better to consult a doctor.

What can replace massage rolls

If necessary, both the massage roll and the ball can be replaced among existing household items. Try using a tightly rolled towel when rolling: the glide will not be as smooth, but you can adapt. An even more comfortable option is a rolled up yoga mat or travel foam. It is convenient that in this case you can independently adjust the diameter of the roll.

Instead of small short rolls, try a water bottle, a thermos, or even a rolling pin. However, it must be taken into account that all these objects are quite rigid, therefore, rolling near bone protrusions (spine, pelvic bones) must be done carefully.

Any round object can become a replacement for a massage ball. First of all, an ordinary tennis ball. It is quite soft and suitable for use even by beginners.

What is the difference between stretching and rolling

We have already noted that both stretching and release complement the training process and are not a substitute for each other. So, for example, for gymnasts and dancers, for whom stretching is an important part of their classes, exercises with a massage roller will not be a substitute for stretching. However, they will help to restore muscles faster and maintain the elasticity of the fascia.

MFR is based on pressure on certain points in which pain appeared. Its task is to ensure the elasticity of muscles and fascia. When stretching, no pressure or pressure occurs, and the action of the exercises is directed not only to the muscles, but also to the ligaments.

Joint mobility also plays an important role in stretching, which can be improved with the help of special gymnastics. 

A little practice, and the massage roller will become an indispensable accessory in the training process. With its help, you can organize a massage session for yourself in just 10-15 minutes of simple exercises. Gently pressing on the trigger points will restore elasticity to the fasciae and prevent the appearance of muscle pain after exercise.

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