Your typical foam roller is cylindrical in shape and is made from stabilised, heat moulded foam. It can come in a variety of different lengths, densities and diameters (and colours).
PE (polyethylene) foam rollers:
these are typically the softest type of roller, generally of lower quality and as they are not very firm, tend to distort after a short time.
EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam rollers:
This is an excellent shock absorbent material, very light weight, long lasting and hard wearing. These rollers are ideal where continued and long term use is essential.
An EVA foam roller will still have a slight “spongey” feel which is ideal for people who do not want a firm foam roller. For those who require just that little bit more firmness there are High Density EVA rollers which decrease the ‘sponginess’ and creates a firmer roller.
Physio on a Roll foam roller
EPP ( Expanded Polypropylene) rollers:
this is a new foam roller material on the market which looks like it is made from tightly moulded polystyrene balls with a smooth outer surface. These rollers are firm and designed for moderate to heavy use.
This Physio on a Roll foam roller is very hard. The denser or harder the roller the more likely it is to maintain its shape. It is also more ‘unstable’ and as such a great core facilitator. However, if you are sensitive to pressure you should use a less dense or softer roller. Then progress to a firmer roller as you are able. Another option is to use a folded towel along the length of the roller. Please note that your body does adapt surprisingly quickly to the feel of a roller.
If you are still a little apprehensive about being on the roller you could use a half or hemispherical roller first.
Rollers also now come with textured external features such as waves and blades. These types of rollers are almost exclusively used for stretching and myofascial releases.
You could purchase a textured roller in addition to your basic roller if desired.
a sample of foam rollers that are available
Similarly, short rollers (30-50cm in length) are a great idea for travel. They do fit easily into suitcases (check out my holiday blog “rolling away from home” for ideas). But, again, these rollers are limited in their ability to be used for most core and strengthening exercises due to their smaller length. They are more suited to stretching and myofascial releases (and travel).
You will need to perform your workout on a hard, flat surface. The floor is ideal. Do not perform your roller exercises on your bed.
A yoga or pilates mat may help your feet from slipping. A mat can also assist in decreasing the instability of the roller for a beginner exerciser.
You will need to wear comfortable, form fitting clothes that will not get tangled whilst you are moving.
You need to be able to move your body freely and be able to feel your body on the roller.
Feel free to use a pillow underneath your head and neck for support. This will be necessary if you have a forward head type posture, and find it difficult or uncomfortable to tuck your chin lightly when lying supine on the roller.
Wearing shoes or exercising in bare feet is generally up to your own personal preference. Bare feet will allow you to feel the floor during your workout. It can add to the stability required and enhance your proprioception.
Wearing sports shoes during your workout is recommended if you usually wear orthotics. Similarly, wear shoes if you have foot/ankle or knee issues or are completing one of the more intensive workouts with weights. You will find that on this site most of the featured exercises are shown with sports shoes on feet.
Your foam roller should be stored flat to avoid it becoming warped. It should also be away from direct sunlight as UV rays can deteriorate the foam.
Tip: behind the door or under your bed is an ideal place to store your roller (but don’t forget to use your roller as out of sight should not mean out of mind! Unless of course, you have a Physio on a Roll foam roller. These are designed to be attractive enough to leave in your living/dining/lounge room where you will see it and remember to use it!
Continuous pressure can cause dents so avoid stacking anything heavy on the roller.
Clean your roller using a damp cloth. Don’t use bleach, oils or any chemicals or you will damage the foam.