If you are not regenerating you will not make progress. Recovery is just an essential part of the improvement process. So, if you are serious about your training, you need to be serious about your recovery too. What you do during downtime has a big impact on how well you will perform on the mat. Sleep and the right fuel are, of course, the best recovery tools. However, they are not the only ones. Another great thing to aid in recovery are foam rollers (also: massage roller) – a cylinder-shaped device designed for massage. More about why and how to use them and what are the best ones on the market below.
Why to use foam rollers for BJJ?
Foam rolling has a lot of benefits, that may vary from person to person. Massaging tense muscles with a roller is a proven method to relax them, improve their flexibility and contractility. It can help reduce muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation. Moreover, it can also increase your joint range of movement. Foam rolling can be a useful device for your warm-up or cooldown, both, before and after exercise. Done before training, it can act as a dynamic warmup—increasing circulation, loosening tight spots, and priming your body to move. And after a workout, it can act as a sports massage—reducing muscular tension and lowering levels of the primary stress hormone, cortisol. Foam rollers just let you do “self-administered myofascial release” (SMR), which is your own deep-tissue massage. In this process, you use precisely controlled body weight to stimulate and relax your muscles.
Choosing your foam roller for jiu-jitsu
Due to the use of rollers by professional athletes as well as sports medical pros, the foam rollers market has really exploded. While having a lot of models to choose from is amazing, buying one can be overwhelming. So when shopping for a foam roller there are several features you need to consider. Most important are density, surface texture, shape, and size. Check below and see which kind of roller suits you best.
Rollers have different densities, some are firm and some are softer. The level of density is important because it is the main factor determining the effectiveness of the roller in deep tissue massage. Using a roller that is too soft can give ineffectual pressure. While using too hard can cause bruising and trauma, which can result in pain and have a negative effect on your performance.
If you’re just starting your journey with foam rolling, it is better to choose a rather soft than a very hard roller. And after you improve your rolling skills and your muscles adapt you can progress to using a harder (denser) roller. Using such a denser foam roller is just better for long-term use. Thanks to their higher hardness, they are simply more durable. Softer ones can get permanently deformed after lots of use.
While buying a roller online the color of it can give you a hint of its density. Most of the time rollers in bright colors are softer, white being the softest. Conversely, dark rollers are the hardest and black the hardest. And blue and red rollers typically are medium density. However, it is rather customary and can vary by brand.
As for the surface structure, rollers can generally be divided into two types – smooth and textured ones. Smooth rollers will be a good choice for beginners. It is because it provides even pressure across the entire length of the roller and the pressure while using it is not as intense as with a textured one. Also, smooth foam rollers are typically cheaper than textured rollers.
On the other hand, the textured foam rollers are intended to imitate the hands of a masseur. And thanks to ridges and knobs can provide more precisely targeted massage to work out knots in your muscles. There are rollers of very different textures available on the market, so everyone interested should find something for themselves.
When it comes to the shape of foam rollers there is really a lot of variety here. It is very important what a roller looks like as it dictates the way of using it. The most classic are, of course, cylindrical rollers. However, you can also buy half-round ones, which look like a foam roller that has been cut in half lengthwise. They are intended for stretching the legs and feet and for massaging the arches of the feet.
There are also foam-covered roller massagers (sticks). Similar in shape to a rolling pin, these rollers are used primarily on legs for more precise pressure regulation and muscle targeting. Flexible massagers are excellent for massaging your upper back. And last but not least, foam balls. With their help, you can aim and control pressure well.
When it comes to the sizes there is also a variety here. You can buy foam rollers that can easily fit in a bag and those that are unlikely to be handy for transport. For example, there are long rollers which are around 36 inches/1 meter. They are versatile and will be a good choice for your first foam roller. Such rollers work well for your back because they are long enough to span your entire back when placed perpendicular to your spine. They’re also more stable than shorter ones when you’re working on your quads, hamstrings, and other body parts. However, you can also find shorter lengths like 24 inches/60 centimeters, which will work well to target smaller areas like arms and calves. And even shorter ones (around 4 – 12 inches/ 10 – 30 centimeters) that work great for portability and in workout areas with limited floor space.
Length is, however, not the only parameter that is worth paying attention to. The diameter of the roller is also very important. Most rollers are 5 or 6 inches/12-15 centimeters in diameter. This makes a comfortable height for easing your body onto and then rolling under control. There are also 3- or 4-inch /7-1- cm diameter rollers for deeper, more targeted massage.
The best Foam Roller for BJJ
This is one of the best foam rollers for jiu-jitsu fighters. It is a deep tissue roller that is really effective in terms of muscle relaxation. It helps in releasing the muscles tension and fixing the trigger points. The size of this roller is 13 x 5.5 inches. Medically this roller fastens the flow and circulation of the blood. It also increases body flexibility and inflammation.
This foam roller is light, portable and best at the results when used. The design of this roller is made for both athletes and normal home exercisers. It is used for warming up before a workout or it can be used to relax muscles after the workout. It is undoubtedly one of the best foam rollers in the market as the name suggests. It provides everything that a typical foam roller does such as; durability, longer reusability, flexibility, cheap, relief of the sore muscles, muscle recovery, body balancing, you name it. The 13-inch roller is supposed to fit in your gym bags but that is not all, this foam roller also comes with 24 inch size for those who prefer longer foam roller.
Sometimes stretching alone is not enough, so it is worth helping yourself with a roller. And this one does exactly what it should, it helps perfectly stretch out niggles and any sorenesses. It definitely works and helps reduce recovery time. TriggerPoint roller is one of the harder rollers, it has high density. However, even though it is quite firm you don’t feel like you are brushing against hard plastic, because it is well-cushioned.
Just remember, because it’s a high-density roller the first dozen or so times you use it, you may need to ease your weight onto it and take it easy before you get used to it. After a bit of getting used to it, roller foam feels just comfortable. Moreover, this roller is simply well designed and of good quality. It’s lightweight, very durable, and water-resistant (including sweat), the foam layer doesn’t look stressed out or cracked from use.
It’s nice, firm, and does the job, which is exactly what a good roller should be. It is a kinda basic roller, but still with many advantages. The size is just perfect for stretching, and it is hard enough to give the body pleasant stimulation. Moreover, it is of great quality, very durable, and light to carry around. Just good value for money. For some, the roller might be a bit stiff, but if you are an experienced foam roller, then this is the one you want. It just feels solid all the way through, hits all the right spots, and helps relax even very tense muscles.
If you are looking for a roller that you can travel with, take to the gym easily, etc., this one is perfect for you. It collapses flat to 1.5” (a little less than 4 cm) thick, which makes it very convenient for travel and storage. It will fit into any bag or backpack, and will not take up much space at home too. You can easily keep it in a wardrobe or on a shelf. It is also very light, but at the same time durable. This roller is, however, not only compact but also has a very effective, well-designed surface structure. It is just excellently textured. So, it will be perfect for demanding users who want to be able to take the roller with them everywhere.
Everyone loves two in one product. After all, you pay for just one thing and you get more. And this is exactly the deal here too. With the nice, firm foam roller comes a softer, little massager that also works decently well. However, that is not all. The set also includes balls, which work great when it comes to targeting hard-to-get spots, such as the bottom of feet, chest, shoulder muscles, glutes, and hamstrings. Maybe it’s not a premium product, but its quality is still very high. It will be a great purchase for people for whom price is a very important shopping factor.
If you are a rather beginner in foam rolling this one got the perfect density. Not too hard, the exercises will not hurt you, but also not too soft, it will not deform immediately. This one is just right, big and firm enough. In addition, it is also high-quality and very durable. Even despite frequent and intensive use, it will still look like new. The price may be a little high, but you really get what you pay for.
How to start foam rolling?
The roller itself and its use are simple. The roller is placed under the muscle that needs to be massaged, and a longitudinal “rolling” is performed. In this way, thickenings that arise as a result of overloads in the muscular system are broken down. However, if you’ve never foam roll before, you may want to learn first a few basics. In general, follow these tips to get started:
- Foam rolling can be painful at first, so to not get discouraged, start with a little pressure. Increase it only when you get used to rolling the foam. You reduce and increase the pressure by reducing the body weight you put on the roller. For example, when rolling your calf, use arms to support the body. By doing that you will reduce the pressure.
- First, roll the sensitive areas for 10 seconds. Next work for around 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
- Remember to keep your body hydrated. Drinking plenty of water after using the roller will aid regeneration.
Traditional Foam Roller Exercises
Hamstrings – start by placing the foam roller on the floor. Then sit down with one leg bent on the floor. Place the other leg on the roller. Put your hands behind your body. Point your fingers towards you. Roll the roller between your knee until it is just below the butt. Repeat the procedure with the other leg.
Adductors – start by lying on the floor with your face down. Use your forearms to prop the upper body. Place the foam roller under your inner thighs just close to the pelvis. Roll to the inside of your knee.
Quads – Start by lying face down and the roller just above the knee of your right leg. Using your arms and left leg, gently move up and down about 4-5 times. Repeat the process on the other side.
IT-Bands – place the foam roller on the outside of your thigh just above the bottom knee. Use the elbow to smoothly move the body up and down your outer thigh. Once you are through, switch to the other side and repeat the process.
Glutes – sit on the roller while crossing your right leg over your left. When putting a load on your arms for support, lean towards your right hip. Smoothly roll from the glute to the back of your hip bone. As a next step roll back to the original position. Change the sides and repeat.
Lats – position your back under the foam roller. Let the roller roll gently under the body.
Thoracic spine – start by placing the foam roller in a vertical position. Then lie face up. Let your head and buttocks be supported by the roller. With your hands facing the ceiling, extend your arms at a 90-degree angle. Keep your arms lightly on the ground. Hold the position for 30-60 seconds. Cross your arms then touch your shoulders with your hands. Lightly roll your trunk on each side for around 30 to 60 seconds.
Upper back – lie with your face up with the roller being positioned below your shoulder blades. Interlock your fingers then place them behind your head to act as support. Roll up and down with your feet pressing. As a next step roll from the shoulder blades to the middle of your back. Do this for around 30-60 seconds.
Calves – place the foam roller on the floor and sit in front of the roller. Position of your legs such that the roller is just above the ankle. Place the other one on top to add pressure on the first leg. Lift your body off the ground slowly and roll forward and backward along your calf.
When performing foam rolling, hold for 30-60 seconds in areas of discomfort. It will help to loosen such tense muscles. You can also find endless foam rolling videos online that will explain how to safely roll out different parts of the body. You can also try foam rolling lessons to learn how to use it effectively under the supervision of an instructor. There are many such classes, for example in gyms.
Foam roller care
Taking care of your foam roller is really easy. To clean and maintain it, simply use a damp cloth and mild soap or detergent. Store it in a safe, clean, dry place. Thanks to such simple actions, the roller will remain clean and keep its shape, which will translate into the fact that you will be able to use it for a long time.