Self myofascial release tools, such as foam rollers, trigger point balls, and massage sticks, have become some of the most popular tools used for corrective exercises, fitness, and sports performance. In fact, performing self myofascial release has become almost a uniform component in the majority of fitness and sports performance programs.
You can certainly argue the exact physiological benefit of performing self myofascial release. Ironically we are likely not really “releasing” fascia.
However, it’s hard to argue the benefits of self myofascial release.
Two recent studies in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy and Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy have been published that analyzed the current state of research and conclude that self myofascial release:
- Increases mobility and joint range of motion
- Reduces post-workout soreness and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Allows for greater workout performance in future workouts
- May lead to improved vascular function and parasympathetic nervous system function
“Simply put, self myofascial release has been proven to help you feel and move better.” [click to tweet]
In order to get started, I wanted to share my years of experience with self myofascial release tools. There are so many foam rollers, trigger point tools, and massage sticks out there these days.
I’ve tried nearly all of them and these are what I consider the best self myofascial release tools.
Best Self Myofascial Release Tools
Over the years I have tried a ridiculous amount of different self myofascial release tools, some great, some awful, and some just a rip off. Luckily, new products emerge all the time and continue to improve.
I’ve learned a couple of things that are important:
- There are different types of self myofascial release tools for different needs, body parts, and intensities. Building your own “kit” is probably going to be the most effective. Trying to use just a foam roller on everything is going to not work well.
- You tend to build up a tolerance to self myofascial release and want to upgrade to more advanced foam rollers, trigger point balls, and massage sticks. Start with the basics and advance overtime.
Best Foam Rollers
Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller
The first place to is a basic high density foam roller. This could be the cheapest and most versatile tool you get. Amazon has started to make their own version, which is a great price. You’ll find various sizes. I’ve never personally gotten much use of the large 36-inch versions and tend to favor the 18-inch version.
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
The basic high density foam roller is a great place to start to get used to foam rolling, but quickly gets pretty easy. You’ll want to upgrade to a more firm foam roller in increase the intensity. My preferred choice is the GRID foam roller from TriggerPoint. I’ve been using this foam roller for years with continued success. It has a rigid hollow core that increases the intensity very well. This is worth the extra investment as it will likely be your main foam roller for some time.
Mobilitas Mobility Sphere
Somewhere between a foam roller and a trigger point ball, I actually really like using 5” mobility balls. Because of the round shape, the contact area is smaller so the amount of force to the area is larger. Plus, you can use into in multiple planes of motion because it is a ball instead of a roller. This is something I personally use. You can get into smaller areas, like your chest, but I use this just as much as a standard foam roller. There are a few but the one I use and recommend is the Mobilitas Mobility Sphere.
Acumobility Eclipse Foam Roller
I was recently turned onto the Eclipse Foam Roller from Acumobility and have been impressed. I was intrigued by the design and wanted to try it myself. I’m not a big fan of foam rollers with ridges, as I just feel they don’t do much and concept is more of a marketing gimmick. But Acumobility has a made a great advanced foam roller that includes a firm middle section that can encompass a body part really well. It’s a really unique design and a great tool for advanced foam rolling.
Best Massage Roller Stick
While foam rollers are the primary self myofascial release tool for most needs, there are body parts that simply don’t do as well and need a massage stick tool. The next tool you should add to your self myofascial release tool kit is a massager stick roller. There are a few popular massage sticks on the market, and as it is with most things, I actually don’t prefer the two most popular massage sticks.
TheraBand Roller Massager+
The original massage stick began with plastic pieces and did a fairly well job, but newer tools have used a more grippy surface that I feel is far more effective. A plastic roller is just placing pressure downward on the tissue, where the grip on the TheraBand Roller Massager+ seems to also create a tissue traction with the friction produced. This is a great product for areas like the forearms and feet, but also areas where you want to apply more pressure than what you can with just body weight, like the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Plus, this has been the massage roller featured in many of the research reports.
Best Trigger Point Release Tools
In addition to foam rollers and massage sticks. Trigger point release tools are another must have addition to your self myofascial release tool kit. Essentially, these just tend to be smaller self myofascial release tools that can get into tighter areas.
Yup, that’s it, just a lacrosse ball. People have tried to make better versions of trigger point balls, but nothing beats the affordable lacrosse ball. Great material, density, and durability. This is a great place to start. Get a couple so you can use two at once one places like your spine.
Acumobility Mobility Ball
Acumobility, the maker of the Eclipse Roller above, has another great tool, their Mobility Ball. This is made from a great dense material, but has a flat bottom that allows you to keep this in one spot on the floor or even against the wall. This really helps to provide firm pressure while performing movements of the muscle group. This is a great upgrade from the lacrosse ball.
Trigger Point Wand
Sometimes an area is hard to reach, such as your neck or back. That’s where sometimes a trigger point wand comes in handy. I would definitely consider this a speciality tool, however a very popular choice.
Foot Rubz Massage Ball
Another speciality tool, but something that I wanted to include as I really love, is the hand and foot massage ball from Foot Rubz. This is a smaller trigger point ball perfect for the hands and feet. You can use a lacrosse ball or even the TheraBand Massage Roller above for these areas, but I feel this is slightly better and worth it for many. (I’m literally using one as I type this haha…)
Create Your Own Self Myofascial Release Tool Kit
All of the above options are great choices. I would recommend getting one of each of the foam rollers, massage sticks, and trigger point tools. Together, these cover pretty much all of your self myofascial release needs.
If you are interested, I also have an Inner Circle webinar on how I perform self myofascial release.