Foam Rolling Basics

Teaching Myself & Others How To Choose A Foam Roller & then Foam Roll Effectively :


For Those of you who do not know me, my name is Mark Harman, the inventor of the Atlas Foam Roller & Stretch Therapy Methods based out of Dallas, TX. Before I could teach my clients and customers how to become flexible & take care of their musculoskeletal injuries I had to perfect all possible foam rolling methods. Over the past 4 years I perfected the art of self-myofascial release (self massage). Some instructors or YouTube sensations that foam roll frequently foam roll well but many also lack an understanding of the art. Considering that foam rolling is a new art, I can honestly say that I am the most creative & considerably the best at the art of foam rolling. My obsession with foam rolling & stretch therapy methods stems from my passion to discover the most effective ways to recover faster. As both a paramedic & a business owner my schedule demands me to be physically healthy. Furthermore, I do not have the free time or  luxury to lay in bed or “rest” to recover from a compromised musculoskeletal problem area. Instead, I take a preventative approach.

My approach is thoughtful, creative & scientifically based. Unlike others,  I address musculoskeletal pains or joint aches before they happen or as they occur. I do not wait till the problem has spiraled out of control. This approach is sustainable while the ladder is unsustainable & can lead to chronic injury & disease of that affected tissue. Chronic injury and disease can lead to loss of a limb, a surgery, loss of bone, weakness, uncoordinated gait or loss of lots of money from the effects of chronic inflammation. Approximately five years ago, I decided that I was going to take a naturally focused preventative approach towards exercise recovery & injury recovery.    

The First 10 Rules I Learned To Follow After Trying Many Types Of Rollers:  

My first foam roller purchase was through Amazon. The first experience I had with a foam roller was at a 24 hour fitness in Richardson, Texas. At the time not many people, men especially were foam rolling gurus. Being overweight did so much damage to my knees and low back. My lower back hurt from the tension of that weight pinching off circulation to that area at a max weight of 270 lbs. Before heading to the Chiropractor. I decided to give foam rolling a try. After 5 minutes of  feeling the nuance of a fresh spinal back crack, while subtlety voicing all sorts of odd sounds from that new onset foam rolling euphorically driven enjoyment, I instantly became addicted. My addiction has continues today. My foam rolling addiction is a healthy addiction that gives me relief from common muscle inflammation. Although the daily or weekly muscle flare ups occur I always remember why I must foam roll every single day! The process or protocol I follow is pretty simple; I always ask myself these questions: 

  1. Where does the muscle soreness originate from? 
  2. What was I doing to cause this muscle & joint pain
  3. How was my posture?
  4. Was my sleeping posture the reason my neck and back hurt?
  5. My hips are sore, was I over training myself or did I just go at that workout hard yesterday or the day before?
  6. Did I have an injury at work because my back & hip are feeling tight?
  7. Am I hydrated? Did I foam roll yesterday?
  8. Is this all mental or is it real non stress induced pain?
  9. What foam roller do I need? High Density? Med Density? Half roller?
  10. What stretching tool do I need?

The answer to all these questions is extremely straight forward, “I need to drink more water and foam roll more often to bring some relief to my stressed muscles.” After the rolling session my body and mind feel care free. But how do I go about choosing a foam roller & rolling method? (in this post I will only explain how to choose a foam roller)

What Types Of Foam Rollers Are Dangerous & Not Preferred?

1. Don’t use a PVC pipe as a foam roller because it a PVC roller with foam around its outer shell.

2. Don’t use a wooden bread roller as a myofascial release rolling pin. It is for bread not my muscles.

What is your first thought when someone is bragging about their recent sporting goods buy shouting out, ” I just bought an awesome foam roller!”  Do you know what type of foam roller to buy? Do you know what a quality foam roller is? Did you even know there are differences in many common foam rollers? Do you understand the differences between the high density black foam,  medium density colored foam or the benefit of using an open cell PVC pipe roller? This brief but detailed article will clear up some of the confusion that pervades this niche foam rolling industry. Hopefully you will be better equipped next time you are in the market for a good quality self-myofascial release tool.

stretch therapy dallas back pain recovery



When I first learned about foam rolling I had no idea how to foam roll or even “what the heck” the big deal was all about until I foam rolled my very first time. When I first Google researched “What is a foam roller,” I found that, “a foam roller is a cylinder shaped, densely packed, composite of polyethylene foam, polyurethane and sometimes it is made with polypropylene material. They can be textured or smooth.  A foam roller is NOT supposed to be a PVC pipe with colored tape or a thin layer of foam fingers around it! The polyethylene and polyurethane foam rollers are the most popular because of their firmness and longevity. You may have also heard about a foam roller that has a big gaping hole in the middle called, “open cell” foam roller. Open cell rollers are most often the cheapest ones to make because there is more densely packed plastic conduit than foam. These rollers are often market as a “textured finger style roller” but it is a style that never comes cheaply priced. Oftentimes the open cell lightly glazed textured foam that surrounds the hollow plastic PVC pipe is an impostor foam roller because again, there is more plastic material than foam!

Before you head out shopping either online or at a sporting goods store, make sure you understand what area of your body you are trying to rehabilitate. Then,  find a friend or go to your local gym so that you can try out different types of foam material so you have an idea of which style works best for you. My preference is the “High Density Black Foam” because my musculoskeletal system (muscles, nerves and joints) respond well to the firmness of that foam. However, I have spoken to many clients that prefer the softer medium density foam because it conforms to your back or general muscles which is more comfortable for them and their needs. Nowadays, unlike in the past, I always suggest that people purchase both a High Density Foam Roller and Medium Density Foam Roller because there are times when the soft foam is therapeutic and oftentimes when the high density foam gets the job quickly & completely.

What do I mean when I suggest to clients they should conveniently have within reach both a High Density Foam Roller and Medium Density Foam Roller? In my experience when my back is sensitive or sore the Medium Density Foam just feels amazing. In contrast, the high density foam will compress sore muscle to the point at which the muscle & nerves fight back! That reflex is a defensive reflex your back muscles have because there is inflammation, tissue damage while it is in the recovery phase of growing and building; in short they stiffen up under pressure. That is why the Medium density foam roller is effective vs. the Higher Density Foam Roller in situations where your back is either in pain or is uncomfortably sore. It just makes sense your sore muscles need more of a pillow hug versus a deep tissue massage sometimes. Don’t we all?

Below are the 10 simple rules to follow before you make that first or next foam roller purchase: 

  1. Make sure it is a legit brand! ( sometimes people buy up discarded or overstock rollers and slap a cheesy name on them with no logo). Is the logo unique or generic?
  2. Research the inventor or business owner to see if he has an outstanding practices, product repertoire while having & maintaining a good reputation.
  3.  It is a great idea to look at consumer reviews and shipping reviews. Many times if a product is good the individual will be selling on both Amazon and their website. Cross reference both and decide if it is worth the price. If you want to go a little further reach out to them on Instagram (@atlas_foam_roller), Facebook, YouTube or a blog they may have. If all they have is a cheesy website them it is not a quality foam roller.
  4. Google the foam roller you are interested in to see if you can find it somewhere in your city! Go to a store and test one out or test the type of foam it may come with! The boxes most foam rollers come in have 2 free ends. Since there are two free ends it is easy to slip off the packaging to try out the foam roller style of interest. (I did not tell you to do that!)
  5. Make sure your foam roller has at least a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee. Don’t believe any claims that guarantee a lifetime warranty because foam does give out over time.
  6. Decide whether you like the feel of a textured.. aka bumpy foam rolling ride, or a smooth foam roller for a smooth classic rolling experience.
  7.  Does the foam roller look like a quality foam roller or is their too much plastic and not enough foam? Are there too many bumps? Does the foam rollers “finger texture” jar me to death ir plain ineffective as advertised?
  8. Is your foam roller multi-functional. Does it have handles? Does the website come with easy to access pictures and video so that you know how to get the “best bang for your buck?”
  9. Is the foam roller too heavy, tall or too small? Check the dimensions and make sure they are right for your body size.
  10. Can you see yourself being inspired to use this foam roller while having fun with this new foam roller every single day? Don’t buy a foam roller that is not inspiring.

Slider with alias themeplicity-footer not found.

Share this Post!

About the Author : Mark H.

Hello everyone Mark Harman from Dallas, Texas. Other than owning Living Organically Valuing Exercise LLC. I am a full time Paramedic. Paramedicine along with my BS in biology has taught me a lot about the body in health and disease. I am enthusiastically obsessed with foam rolling and self-myofascial release therapies and techniques. My passion grows everyday.

Send a Comment