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INJURY MANAGEMENT

The Difference Between a Foam Roller and a Release Ball

Mitchell Starkman, Physiotherapist, The Movement Centre

18 June 2018

So, what is the difference between a foam roller and a release ball? We get this question all the time. How do I know when to use my foam roller and when to use my release ball? What is the difference? Well lucky for you we are going to break down this dilemma once and for all in the text below below, along with a full video for you visual folks out there.

 

When To Use Each Tool?

This is really determined by two things, 1) how big the muscle is you are trying to tackle and 2) how precise you need to be to gain the desired effect.

Let’s first consider the size of your muscle. If you plan on attempting to use your release tool on a large muscle like the quads, you’ve got a lot of surface area to cover. In that case, it may make the most sense to use the roller. But on the contrary, if you are trying to work on your upper traps, using a release ball would be a much easier tool.

The second point is how pinpoint we need to be. The answer to this question is more of a personal preference. Generally speaking, the more pinpoint the pressure, the more uncomfortable. That being said, if you want to tackle a specific trigger point, using a release ball may be your best tool. However if it’s too tender or sensitive then the roller would be your next best option.

What’s The Goal

The goal of both the foam roller and release ball are the same. Both work to improve your mobility, increase blood flow, and generally improve the sensation of tightness in the area. Either of the two will do the trick, but it all depends on how much you can tolerate in terms of pressure and the target muscle or area.

What Are Some Examples?

The Foam Roller – the Quad Grinder

This is a great exercise to focus in on that big group of muscles on the front of your thighs – your quadriceps. This muscle can often be involved with knee pain such as patellofemoral syndrome and IT band syndrome

 

When To Use Each Tool?

This is really determined by two things, 1) how big the muscle is you are trying to tackle and 2) how precise you need to be to gain the desired effect.

Let’s first consider the size of your muscle. If you plan on attempting to use your release tool on a large muscle like the quads, you’ve got a lot of surface area to cover. In that case, it may make the most sense to use the roller. But on the contrary, if you are trying to work on your upper traps, using a release ball would be a much easier tool.

 

The second point is how pinpoint we need to be. The answer to this question is more of a personal preference. Generally speaking, the more pinpoint the pressure, the more uncomfortable. That being said, if you want to tackle a specific trigger point, using a release ball may be your best tool. However if it’s too tender or sensitive then the roller would be your next best option.

 

What’s The Goal

The goal of both the foam roller and release ball are the same. Both work to improve your mobility, increase blood flow, and generally improve the sensation of tightness in the area. Either of the two will do the trick, but it all depends on how much you can tolerate in terms of pressure and the target muscle or area.

What Are Some Examples?

The Foam Roller – the Quad Grinder

This is a great exercise to focus in on that big group of muscles on the front of your thighs – your quadriceps. This muscle can often be involved with knee pain such as patellofemoral syndrome and IT band syndrome

So, what is the difference between a foam roller and a release ball? We get this question all the time. How do I know when to use my foam roller and when to use my release ball? What is the difference? Well lucky for you we are going to break down this dilemma once and for all in the text below below, along with a full video for you visual folks out there.

 

When To Use Each Tool?

This is really determined by two things, 1) how big the muscle is you are trying to tackle and 2) how percise you need to be to gain the desired effect.

Let’s first consider the size of your muscle. If you plan on attempting to use your release tool on a large muscle like the quads, you’ve got a lot of surface area to cover. In that case, it may make the most sense to use the roller. But on the contrary, if you are trying to work on your upper traps, using a release ball would be a much easier tool.

The second point is how pinpoint we need to be. The answer to this question is more of a personal preference. Generally speaking, the more pinpoint the pressure, the more uncomfortable. That being said, if you want to tackle a specific trigger point, using a release ball may be your best tool. However if it’s too tender or sensitive then the roller would be your next best option.

What’s The Goal

The goal of both the foam roller and release ball are the same. Both work to improve your mobility, increase blood flow, and generally improve the sensation of tightness in the area. Either of the two will do the trick, but it all depends on how much you can tolerate in terms of pressure and the target muscle or area.

 

What Are Some Examples?

The Foam Roller – the Quad Grinder

This is a great exercise to focus in on that big group of muscles on the front of your thighs – your quadriceps. This muscle can often be involved with knee pain such as patellofemoral syndrome and IT band syndrome.

 

We’ve created a full post on this exercise if you want a deeper dive into it!

The Release Ball –  The Pec Grinder

It is time to stretch out our chest muscles ladies and gentleman! Now, I commonly see people hanging off the edge of door frames or pressing their noses into the corner of a room.  People will hang their arm off the wall to attempt to stretch something in the front of the arm. The problem with this is that you are not just stretching your pecs here. You are literally hanging off a whole whack of muscles in the front of the shoulder. This includes the biceps (and we wonder why they get sore?) and the actual joint capsule itself. Needless to say, a non-specific stretch is no good at all.

So I propose the Pec Grinder. This is a way you can perform self myofascial release while stretching your shoulder wonderfully. Enjoy.

 

We’ve created a full write up post on this shoulder stretch if you need a full review.

How Long Should You Work on a Muscle For?

We recommend spending a minimum of 2 minutes working on each target muscles to see some sustainable change.

Now that you’ve chosen your tool of choice if you want to learn more about how to use each look no further! We’ve created a guide on both below!

How and When do I use a Release Ball

How and When Do I Use a Foam Roller?

Do You Currently Have a Injury?

If you currently have an injury, we are doing our best to create online physiotherapy programs to help you achieve your goals! You can check out all of our current programs and hopefully find one that helps!

We also have a ton of free resources to help you work through any injuries that you may be dealing with.  If there is anything we can do to help, or if you’re looking for some additional information we don’t have, please let us know!

Thanks for stopping by! We hope it’s helpful. For those that need more guidance, we’ve created a step by step online program to finally cure your shoulder pain! Use your promo code MOVE10 for $10 off your first program!

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Video Transcript

Some people prefer to read and we’ve got you covered!

Hi, guys. Thanks for stopping by, and just before we get started, I wanted to let you know about a free resource we created for you guys today for download. What it is, is the 3 Pieces of Exercise Equipment You Didn’t Know You Had At Home And Exactly How To Use Them. All you have to do is head down to the description below. Click on that link. It’ll take you right to it, or head right to the website, physioready.com/equipmentathome, and get started. All right, so without further ado let’s jump to the video. Thanks a lot.

Hey, guys. This is Mitch here from PhysioReady. We’re talking a little what the difference is between a foam roller and a release ball. Now generally what we’re looking at with this guys, is if we want to work on an area of the body, and we want to tackle it with a tool that will give us just the right amount of pressure. It’s not painful, but it’s just that right amount of discomfort that we know we’re doing a good thing with the body.

Generally, if you want to focus on a smaller muscle or a deeper area like deep in the hip, or in the front here, using something like a release ball is really effective, and a good way to get some good pressure on it. If you want to work on a bigger muscle like your quads, your hamstrings, your calves, using something like a foam roller is generally a better bet. We have tons of videos on exactly how to do these different types of exercises with these different tools, but when you’re making your choice this is what you want to use to be a bit more specific, or to get a bit more local pressure. This guy you want to use to be a little bit more general, get some more blood flow into it, and tackle a bigger surface area at the same time. That’s it. Foam roller versus release ball. I’ll see you in the next video, guys.Hey, guys. Thanks for watching all the way to the end. I really appreciate it. I want to remind you one more time that free resource we have for you guys because we appreciate you. It is the 3 Pieces of Exercise Equipment You Did Not Know You Aad At Home And Exactly How To Use Them. All you have to do to download that is head down to the description below. Click on that link. You can download it, or head right to our website, physioready.com/equipmentathome, and get started. If you haven’t subscribed, if you haven’t liked us, please do that. We appreciate that. Share away. We will see you in the next video. Thanks a lot.

 

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