Which Are Better: Regular or Vibrating Foam Rollers?

Are Vibrating Foam Rollers Better?

Are vibrating foam rollers just another fitness fad? Or does science actually back the bold claims of added benefits over regular foam rollers?

This article covers everything you need to know about how vibrating foam rollers work, the research comparing them to regular foam rolling, and whether they’re worth it before adding one to your own gym bag.

How Vibrating Foam Rollers Work

Vibrating foam rollers take the traditional concept of foam rolling but add in localized high-intensity vibration to amplify the effects of myofascial release and blood flow.

Research on vibration therapy to improve sports performance and workout recovery isn’t anything new. So it’s not a surprise to see the combination of two popular tools into one device. 

Now that vibrating foam rollers have found their way onto the market and are being used by athletes. New research is uncovering some surprising results for the added benefits vibration brings to traditional foam rolling. 

We’ll dive into the studies further in the article. First, we’ll give you a quick refresher on self-myofascial release and then some of the specific ways vibration foam rolling could be superior to regular foam rolling alone. 

Benefits of Self-Myofascial Release and Regular Foam Rolling

As an athlete, you’re always looking for ways to improve performance and accelerate recovery after training. 

From massage guns to foam rollers, self-myofascial release has become a staple in pre-workout warm-ups and kickstarting recovery after a hard workout. And the introduction of vibrating foam rollers has brought an entirely new element of enhancing the effects of traditional foam rolling alone.

The benefits of myofascial release are numerous and becoming increasingly well documented. In a previous article, we outline everything you need to know about how myofascial release works, all the benefits, and the wide variety of tools at your disposal you can use.

If you want to start there, feel free to jump over to that article first. But as a quick refresher, here are the benefits of self-myofascial release for athletes from the article:

The Benefits of Foam Rolling:

1.) Improved Mobility and Range of Motion

2.) Restores Proper Balance of Muscle Tension

3.) Reduced Soreness Post-Exercise

4.) Improved Recovery After a Training Session

5.) Increases Blood Flow

6.) Decreased Trigger Point Sensitivity

7.) Muscle Relaxation

8.) Improved Flexibility

Mobility Athlete: What Is Self-Myofascial Release? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Ways Vibrating Foam Rollers Are Better Than Regular Foam Rollers

The inclusion of vibration to foam rolling has opened up new pathways for added benefits in sports and exercise. Research in vibration therapy, even isolated from foam rolling, has shown improvements in neuro-muscular function, muscle strength, and potentially even positive hormonal responses.

When you combine these effects with the benefits of myofascial release that foam rolling itself provides, you have a powerful tool that expands on an already robust list of benefits.

In addition to all the benefits of self-myofascial release listed above, there are four areas in which vibrating foam rollers separate themselves from the pack and significantly enhance performance and recovery compared to regular foam rolling.

Advantages of Vibrating Foam Rollers:
  1. Reducing Soreness and Pain Perception
  2. Improving Range of Motion
  3. Improving Oxygen Delivery
  4. Improving Flexibility and Reducing Muscle Stiffness

To give you a better idea for how this translates to athletic performance and recovery, let’s break down a couple of studies exploring the effects of vibrating foam rollers in more detail. 

Study on Effects of Vibration and Non-Vibration Foam Rolling for Exercise Recovery

In 2019 the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine compared the effects between non-vibration foam rolling and vibration foam rolling

Up until this point, the research on vibration foam rolling had been minimal. But vibration therapy, in general, showed great promise as an alternative method for enhancing recovery. The introduction of vibrating foam rollers into the market opened up a world of exploration to test their effects directly for athletes.

Limited studies had observed improvements in range of motion, but none had yet taken into account participants with exercise-induced muscle damage. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of vibration foam rollers and regular foam rollers on perceived pain, muscle oxygen saturation, vertical jump, and hip and knee range of motion after muscle damage from exercise. 

The study took thirty-eight healthy individuals and had them perform 10 sets by 10 repetitions of flywheel squats for max effort (more than enough to induce soreness and sufficient muscle damage.) 

They then split the groups into two. One group would do foam rolling with a regular foam roller. The other would perform the same foam rolling but with a Hyperice foam roller set to 18hz. 

Results: Vibrating Foam Roller vs Regular Foam Roller
  1. The participants who used the vibrating foam roller showed significant improvements in pain perception to the non-vibrating foam roller group.
  2. The vibrating foam roller group also achieved a more significant short-term improvement in range of motion.
  3. Both groups showed improvements in pain threshold, oxygen saturation, and countermovement jump.

It was interesting to see that there wasn’t a significant improvement in oxygen saturation measured in the vibration group. However, this study measured muscle oxygen saturation (Sm02), not blood oxygen saturation (Sp02). They’re both measured differently and have different sets of benefits, one being delivery and the other being consumption.

Studies like this one from the Journal of Athletic Training show that while vibration therapy didn’t appear to change skeletal muscle oxygenation, it did improve blood flow. 

Even more interestingly, vibration frequency could play an important role in improving muscle oxygen saturation. This study from the same journal in 2021 showed a significant increase in Sm02 re-saturation using vibration at 45hz instead of the 18z in the previous studies. This indicates that there’s tons of room in this exciting new space for additional future research.

Study on Effects of Vibration Foam Rolling on Sports Performance and Exercise Warm-Up

An athlete’s warm-up routine can make or break their performance in both training and competition. But can the added benefits of improved circulation and range of motion you get from vibrating foam rollers amplify the effects of a standard dynamic warm-up?

In a 2020 study, the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine examined the effects of dynamic stretching followed by vibration foam rolling. 

The study took trained badminton players and compared just a dynamic stretching program and dynamic stretching followed by vibration foam rolling before training. Specifically, they looked for improvements in range of motion, muscle stiffness, countermovement jump, and agility.

Results: Vibration Foam Rolling With Dynamic Warm-Up

The findings suggested that while a dynamic stretching program before training significantly improves range of motion, countermovement jump, and agility – the inclusion of vibration foam rolling considerably improved muscle stiffness compared to dynamic stretching alone.

While foam rolling of any kind shouldn’t take the place of a good old-fashioned active warm-up. Its benefits in improving muscle stiffness, reducing perceived pain, and improving blood flow to the muscles, makes it an incredible addition to your pre-workout warm-up routine. 

Are Vibrating Foam Rollers Worth It?

The decision to buy a vibrating foam roller comes down to two questions: 

  1. How long have you been foam rolling?
  2. What are your athletic and training goals?

If you’re brand new to foam rolling, there are inexpensive and straightforward foam rollers that will still give you extraordinary results. Starting there could be the most practical choice for you. 

For beginners with a lower tolerance for foam rolling, you could actually use it in a way that’s less effective for fascia release and receive more of the effects just from the vibration (which is perfectly fine if that is your intended goal.)

But if you’ve been foam rolling for a while and feel like you may have reached the limitations of its benefits, a vibrating foam roller could be the exact tool to push the boundaries out a little further to find untapped benefits in your foam rolling.

And suppose you’re serious about maximizing your warm-ups before competition or training sessions. In that case, the improvements vibrating foam rollers can give you alongside your dynamic warm-up for improved mobility and injury prevention is well worth the investment.

What Kind of Foam Roller Is Right for You?

The variety of foam rollers on the market is overwhelming. Each having its own specific uses and benefits; it can be challenging even to know where to start. 

We’ve created a guide to choosing the best foam roller that breaks down every kind of roller on the market, what they are each used for, and which is best suited to help you reach your training goals.

Be sure to check out the guide if you’re still deciding what kind of foam roller will be best for you.

If you’re ready to take the leap into taking advantage of the benefits of vibration foam rolling, we’ll also leave our top picks for vibrating foam rollers for you down below.

If you’re interested in adding a vibrating foam roller to your gym bag, if you use one of our links from this post, we get a small commission from Amazon (at no additional cost to you!) So if you appreciate the work we do and the information we provide in articles like this, it helps us keep the lights on. Thanks for your support!

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