After a workout, rolling out relieves muscle tension and can help improve your range of motion and flexibility. Physical therapists, personal trainers, and even coaches highly recommend this practice.
People use foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and a variety of other rolling tools. Today, we will discuss lacrosse balls versus foam rollers. Which one is most effective and easy to use?
The Science Behind Rolling Out
Before we jump into the question of using a lacrosse ball or foam roller, it is important to understand the science behind rolling out and why so many consider it essential. Lacrosse balls and foam rollers are used for self-myofascial release, which you will often see abbreviated as SMR.
Self-myofascial release is used to reduce pain and improve recovery after a workout. Rolling out engages the sensory receptors in skin and muscle tissue and helps to relax the muscles and fascia for better movement.
SMR also helps to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. It allows you to effectively massage your trigger points and get rid of those muscle knots that seem to develop after an intense workout.
Is Rolling Your Muscles with a Lacrosse Ball Better Than a Foam Roller?
When deciding between a lacrosse ball or foam roller, there are a few things to consider. First of all, you need to know the primary areas you plan to target. Smaller areas tend to respond better to lacrosse balls, whereas large areas work well with a foam roller.
Foam rollers have been a staple for after-workout treatments for many years, but now there is another option. Many have found a lacrosse ball does wonders for their tight and fatigued muscle tissue, allowing them to recover much faster and with less pain.
One of the primary reasons so many people prefer lacrosse balls over foam rollers is because they are hard and can get into areas a foam roller cannot. They offer the perfect level of resistance for many areas of the body.
Thinking about getting started? Experts agree taking about ten minutes each night to roll out before bed is highly beneficial. Ten minutes gives you plenty of time to work the soft tissues, but will not lead to you overdoing it.
To use a lacrosse ball correctly, place it underneath the part of your body you are treating and allow your body weight to push down on the ball. Roll around until the ball hits an area that feels uncomfortable.
Once you find this area. Stop moving and breathe in deeply and then clench the muscle over the lacrosse ball and hold it for four seconds. Relax the muscle and then slowly breathe out deeply, instructing your body to relax.
If You Could Only Use One, Which Is Better, Foam Roller or Lacrosse Ball?
Many people are ditching their foam rollers because they are too bulky. Even though there are now foldable foam rollers, they still cannot match the portability of a lacrosse ball.
If you could only choose one, choose a lacrosse ball. You can easily throw one of these in your bag. They are small and convenient to use.
If you have been considering which is better, think about the following reasons you should choose a lacrosse ball for rolling out after a workout.
The Rubber Is “Grippy”
Lacrosse balls are covered in rubber, which is highly grippy. If you roll out on bare skin, which is recommended by most physical therapists, you are going to find a lacrosse ball to be perfect.
The rubber against your skin creates a gentle pull that feels amazing and allows you to grab the superficial fascia, for that all-important unpacking to occur. The rubber grip and pull will also treat the deep tissue fascia. You can aid this process by staying hydrated, so the tissues glide against one another instead of becoming packed.
They Are Less Bulky
Many people prefer using lacrosse balls because they are less bulky. As mentioned above, you can easily throw these in a travel or gym bag. Although there are now foldable foam rollers, these still may not be as compact as a lacrosse ball.
Lacrosse Balls Offer More Pressure
Have you ever had a shiatsu massage? Do you find some areas of your body need more deep pressure than others? Although the nubby protrusions on foam rollers do offer comfort, can they really penetrate the fascia tissue as deeply as a lacrosse ball?
Lacrosse balls can be made from various materials, but they are rigid and less flexible than foam rollers. For many people, the pressure offered by these balls is at just the level they need, for getting deep relief.
They Are More Durable
Because of the materials of lacrosse balls, they are considered much more durable than other options. Foam rollers, especially the cheap ones, are more likely to fall apart over time because they typically cannot hold up to pressure as well.
Lacrosse balls are made of various elastomeric materials, so they are sturdy and durable. Most people do not want to waste money. Having a durable tool to use for rolling out is essential.
What Other Things Are Useful for Muscle Rolling/Release?
If you do not have a foam roller or lacrosse ball, there are other options people use to roll out. Knowing the available options will help to ensure everyone can use this therapy to alleviate their stiff and sore muscles after a workout.
Tennis balls are a great alternative to lacrosse balls, though they are hollow, so they may not offer the deep level of pressure a lacrosse ball does. If the tennis ball proves to be too soft for a particular body area, individuals will often use a baseball.
Roller sticks are now on the market and work in much the same way as foam rollers, but they have handles on the sides and are typically used to manually roll areas with your hands. If you cannot purchase a roller stick, an inexpensive option is a rolling pin. If you find the pressure from the rolling pin to be too much, you may need to wrap it with a towel to cut down on the intensity.
Broomsticks are helpful for a few areas of the body. They can be used to roll the hamstrings, calf muscles, and quadriceps. With a broomstick, you can control the pressure. Unfortunately, these are too large to be practical but can be used in a pinch, when other options are not available.
A hard plastic bottle can also be used for rolling out. The harder the bottle, the better the pressure development during rolling. Some people have also used cans.
In the gym, those who need to roll out after a workout may reach for a barbell. Barbells are heavier than some of the other above alternatives. You can use a barbell under your body or place it on top, to roll your quads manually.
I have personally tried many of the above. For a long time, I was using a foam roller and was quite pleased with the results, but I found it could not get into some areas, like the space between my shoulder blades.
I started using a lacrosse ball and found it worked perfectly to get in all those little areas and handled big areas as well. It is one of those things that “hurts so good”.
You can actually use a wide array of items for rolling out, but do be careful! No matter which tool you use for rolling/releasing muscle tissue, it is important you use it correctly, to avoid injuries. Never do the following!
- Do not move the roller or ball in the wrong direction. It should be perpendicular to the muscle for the best results.
- Do not only roll your lower body. Your upper body needs attention too!
- Do not roll too gently. Yes, you need to be careful, but a lack of pressure will do very little for unpacking your fascia and relieving pain. To ensure you are getting the right level of pressure, get to a self-rate around a 5 out of 10.
- Do not roll bony areas. Rollers and lacrosse balls are for releasing tension in soft tissues. If you roll over bone, you are likely to feel pain!
Conclusion Lacrosse Ball Vs. Foam Roller
If you are not rolling out after a workout, what are you waiting for? You have several options available to help you release the fascia and stop the discomfort, while also improving your recovery time.
When it comes to lacrosse balls vs. foam rollers, I feel the balls win. They are compact, easy to use, and get into all those smaller areas a foam roller is too wide to handle. Try them today and see what you think!