Do Vibration Foam Rollers Really Work?
Foam rolling has been a mainstay of workout pre and post body treatment for a number of years now. During that time it has been proven, through countless scientific studies that it is a great tool that enhance, motion, flexibility and performance while training and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following your workout.
Another muscle treatment which has been around for a long time is vibration. Vibration has been proven to reduce the frequency with which pain signals are sent to the central nervous system. So, it would seem that the amalgamation of foam rolling and vibration would be a no-brainer. So, how effective is vibration foam rolling in the real world? And how can you get the most benefit from this new technology?
Read on to find out.
What is a Vibration Foam Roller?
A foam roller takes the familiar cylindrical foam roller and adds vibration technology to it. This allows the user to apply vibration to the target muscle group while also getting the benefits of self myofascial release and compression. You will find different vibrating foam rollers at different frequencies, with the ideal appearing to be around 33 Hz. Most vibrating foam rollers on the market (there aren’t that many of them yet) allow you to choose your vibration setting between low, medium and high.
Vibrating Foam Roller Benefits
While the recent advent of foam vibration rollers hasn’t provided enough time for any serious scientific investigation, the benefits of muscle vibration are well documented. Vibration relaxes tense muscles, which makes it a useful tool both before and after your workout. It can also take away a measure of the initial stinging pain that some people get with myofascial release.
Vibration foam rolling softens the fascia that surrounds muscle fiber (fascia is a bit like cling film). Fascia can become stiff which inhibits the muscle’s ability to move freely. Fascia is bathed in ground substance, a lubricating fluid. When the muscle is inactive the ground substance thickens, inhibiting movement. Vibration foam rolling changes the consistency of ground substance from a thick gel to a fluid.
Vibration foam rolling also increases the quality of the muscle tissue itself. It allows you to deeply and firmly knead the muscle. In addition it can numb trigger points. Trigger points are hot spots around the body where there is a natural tendency for increased amounts of tension or inflammation were a selection of muscles connect to perform their tasks. This is similar to a junction of roads. And just like a bottleneck when there is too much traffic, these areas con become congested. Vibration massage on these trigger points will almost magically reduce the sensitivity in these areas.
Vibration foam rolling can also break up scar tissue. Muscle fibers are damaged and scar on a regular basis if you perform intense physical activity. The most common example is DOMS, which is believed to be due to tiny tears in the muscle. Self administered sports massage is an effective way to manage this type of damage.
Getting the Best from Your Vibration Foam Roller
A vibration foam roller is a great tool that can greatly lessen your muscle aches and pains. But only if you use it properly. Here are a 7 ways to get the most from your vibration foam roller:
Your vibration roller will probably allow you to use 3 or more vibration intensities. Even though you may be tempted to jump directly to the higher levels (especially if you’ve got some serious pain), the smart way to go is begin with the lowest level for the first 2-3 sessions until you get used to the unique sensation on your muscles.
You need to create a mind-body connection while you are rolling, So, when rolling your quads, each motion should take approximately 3 seconds. Count in your head as you roll.
Take Your Time
Your self massage session should be a slow process. Take your time on each muscle, spending at least 2-3 minutes to really get deep into the fiber.
Long, Slow Movements
To really get into the fascia and loosen up the ground substance, you need to use long, slow, sweeping movements that will cover the entire length of fascia. Follow the long axis of the muscle. Rather than trying to squash and stretch out your muscles, think about rolling between the origin and insertion points of the muscle. Use a downward pressure (as much as you can handle). Concentrate on your large muscle groups, such as the thighs, hamstrings, calves and upper back.
Use Small Movements on Trigger Points
In order to get into your trigger points, use small, repetitive movements, also known as ‘micro isolation’ techniques. Really dig in with as much downward pressure as you can handle - and take it slow.
Roll Every Day
Repetition is the key to success in most things and vibration foam rolling is no exception. You sessions will only take 15 minutes but they should be daily. The more you put into foam rolling, the more you will get out of it.
Roll Along the Longest Axis of the Muscle
To work the muscle to fullest effect, roll along the longest axis of the muscle. As an example, when working the quadriceps, go from knee to hip and back again. Keep the pressure constant.
The goal of vibration foam rolling is to manage or reduce inflammation and enhance tissue function. Both of these goals are reliant on optimal hydration levels. As a result, you need to make sure that you are never thirsty when you are foam rolling.
Best Vibration Foam Rollers
Hyperice Vyper 2 Vibrating Foam Roller
The Vyper 2 is an 11.5 inch long vibrating roller that comes from the team that introduced wearable ice packs to the market. This is a firm roller that features thick ridges. The vibration comes from a lithium ion powered mechanism in the core of the roller. The foam used on this roller is very firm. Even if you used it without turning in the vibration, you would get an effective massage experience.
The on/off switch of located on one end of the cylinder. LED lights show how much charge is on the battery. When fully charged you will be able to use it for an two and a half hours. The other end of the unit features a button which allows you to cycle through the three intensity levels of vibration. The three settings are ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’. It should be said, though, that these settings are all pretty high. Most people will never have to advance beyond the second setting.
The intensity of the vibration means that you don’t have to push down so hard on the roller. The end result is that you get a more effective experience with less effort than if you were using a non vibrating foam roller.
The Hyperice Vyper 2 is not very long, so it may move out of position when you are pushing down on it. The Vyper 2 is also pretty noisy due to the noise of the vibration. It’s also quite a bit more expensive than a conventional foam roller - like around four times the price.
Trigger Point Grid Vibe
The Trigger Point Grid Vibe roller is slightly longer than the Hyperice Vyper 2 at 12 inches. Unlike the Vyper 2, it just provides one vibration frequency - 33 Hz. It is made from patented high density EVA foam. The roller features Trigger Point’s patented groove patterns to ensure the most effective penetration of the muscle tissue.
The Trigger Point Grid Vibe provides you with a foam firmness which is comparable to the Vyper 2. The battery life on this roller is about two hours.
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