What is foam rolling and what are its benefits?
Foam rolling is an exercise accessory movement that focuses on compressing your body’s tissues such as muscles, joints, ligaments and fascia tissue.
Foam rolling is heavily underutilized by your everyday person as it has a wide range of benefits such as relieving muscle soreness, easing chronic muscle pain (especially in the legs), as well as increasing blood flow and flexibility.
Foam rolling is commonly performed by massaging or “rolling out” a certain area of the body with a rolling mechanism usually made of foam for most comfortability.
Although foam rollers do not need to be made of foam to have great effect. Foam rollers can be made out of a wide variety of materials and even things that are not traditional foam rollers can be used as one.
What can you use instead of a foam roller? I have put together a list of 9 foam roller substitutes you can find laying around your house.
9 Best Foam Roller Substitutes
The first foam roller substitute on this list is one that I think is the most likely that everyone reading this has in their household and that is a broom stick.
As you know a broom is used to sweep the floor so if you have a floor you almost certainly have a broom and if you have a broom you have a broomstick.
A broomstick is a great foam roller substitute because it is simple and precise. You can use it by placing it on the ground and applying your body weight on the desired area and roll over it accordingly to release muscle tension and tight knots.
Since broom sticks are typically thin you can target a more exact area as well as being able to control the amount of pressure you want to use with your own body weight.
This works particularly well when targeting your legs whether it be your quads, calves or hamstrings
2. Water Bottle
A water bottle is something else that majority of people will have in their household. Whether it be a hard plastic bottle, a soft plastic bottle, or even a metal bottle they all can be used in one way or another as a foam roller.
To use them as a foam roller you use the same kind of technique you would with the broomstick. Make sure to be certain the bottle can take the weight of your body without getting damaged.
One of the pros of using a water bottle as a foam roller is you can fill it up with either really warm water or cold water. Doing this you can get added benefits, (see Hot Or Cold For Muscle Recovery) which really helps when you are sore
3. Rolling Pin
The rolling pin is easily the closest resembling to a traditional foam roller, after all it is made to roll. It having handles and the rolling mechanism itself moving independently from the handles makes it a very controllable method of use.
There are two main ways you can use a rolling pin as a foam roller. One way is the same method that was used for the item above.
The second way is taking advantage of those wonderfully convenient handles by grabbing hold of them, pushing against your muscles and rolling yourself if it is an area that can be reached.
You can even use it on your foot which would be difficult to target with a regular roller.
4. Tennis Ball
Although still able to be used as a foam roller, tennis balls vastly differ from the items talked about previously because they are round. Since tennis balls are round they can roll and if it rolls it can be used as a foam roller.
Tennis balls are relatively soft so do not expect the most intense massage but since they are so small they can be extremely specific far more so than any other foam roller substitute talked about so far.
An added benefit of them being so small is how portable they are. You can bring one with you everywhere you go if you so choose.
They are typically used by placing the tennis ball against a wall and leaning into it, pushing for pressure and moving in the desired direction to make it roll.
This substitute can also be used on the floor but most find using the wall simplest.
The tennis ball is an awesome choice for targeting spots on your neck and shoulders to relieve and pain or tightness you may have.
One most gym goers will have around their house is a barbell and along with being a great muscle building tool it can be a great foam roller.
Be sure you have a straight barbell if you wish to use it as a foam roller as some barbells have a curved bar and they won’t work well.
The barbell can be used in one of two ways. It can be used in the same way as a broomstick or some barbells have ends that move independently from the bar similar to the rolling pin and in that case it can be used the same way.
Be cautious when using the barbell as it is metal, heavy and hard. If you have a sensitive area this definitely is not the best option but if you have strong muscles and a deep knot then it is probably your best option.
My personal favorite on this list is the baseball. It can be used in the exact same way as the tennis ball. The only difference here is that the baseball is a lot heavier and harder.
A baseball is not just a lot harder it’s extremely harder but this is why I like it the most. If you have a sensitive or damaged area though proceed with caution.
7. Baseball Bat
The baseball bat is a unique one due to the shape of it. Like many on this list it can be used in the same way as the broomstick but the baseball bat is different.
Since the bat starts thin and gets thicker and thicker as it gets to the end it can be used to meet a variety of needs. If you want a precise firm massage you may prefer the thin end and if you want to cover a wide area you can use the thick end.
8. Lacrosse Ball
Another spherical sports ball that can be used as a foam roller substitute is the lacrosse ball. It can be used in the same way as the tennis ball and the baseball.
Being made of rubber it is a good alternative for someone that wants something soft compared to the other two balls. It is softer than even the tennis ball and nowhere near hard like the baseball either.
If you are unsure on which ball to go with this is definitely the pick for you and if you desire something harder you can change balls gradually.
9. PVC or Metal Pipe
The final foam roller substitute on this list is one many people may not have handy but if you do have one it is definitely effective and that is a PVC pipe or some kind of metal pipe in general.
It is used using the broomstick method and is another good in between. In this case in between meaning it is not as soft as the broomstick but not as hard as a barbell since even though the piping may be metal like a barbell it is hallow so it is relatively light.
Foam rolling is one of a few great methods for over all recovery and it can feel like magic when you realize you have no muscle soreness after your golden 5 workout since you foam rolled to reduce or prevent that issue.
It can feel even more like magic when you suddenly have muscle pain or swelling for a reason other than working out and you can effectively apply a foam roller or one of these substitutes for stress relief in minutes.
Although as valuable as a tool they are they do not need to be super expensive and now that you have read this list you may not need to buy one at all. Always keep in mind to use these tools correctly though as to not damage them or yourself.