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Foam Roller vs Theragun Massager: Which One is Better? Nothing feels better than a good workout. A toned up body is preferred before a party or an important gathering. However, a thorough workout means aching muscles. After a good leg day at the gym, you may end up walking strangely or not walking at all. Therefore, workout recovery is as important as the workout itself.
What can you do recover after a good workout at the gym? Everyone’s needs differ and your recovery will depend on your exercise. It is essential that you understand the available recovery tools and choose one that suits you best. There are two popular choices when it comes to recovery tools: a foam roller and a massage gun.
Both these recovery tools are great after a workout and you can have both. However, you would need to consider a few things like your needs and your budget. While a foam roller costs very little, a massage gun can cost up to $500. The good news is that there are many cheap options for a massage gun for you to choose.
When talking about the functionality of these tools, both are different but both are great to help relieve muscle soreness. A foam roller and a massage gun can help you recover from a workout a lot sooner than doing nothing. This also encourages you to reduce any gaps between workout sessions. This article will help you understand which recovery tool is better for you.
The Importance of Using a Recovery Tool
Table of contents
- 1 The Importance of Using a Recovery Tool
- 2 Adaptation of Exercises
- 3 Understanding Myofascial Release
- 4 The Function of a Foam Roller
- 5 The Function of a Massage Gun
- 6 Who Should Not Use a Massage Gun?
- 7 Things to Consider
- 8 Price Comparison
- 9 So, Foam Roller or Massage Gun?
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When you work out, your muscles do not grow but they tear due to stress. The muscles actually grow during the resting period between workout sessions. During a workout, you put your muscles under acute stress and doing this continuously your body adapts to the stimulus. However, if the muscles do not get adequate resting time, you will be exhausted.
Giving enough time to rest is essential otherwise; you will experience the overtraining syndrome resulting in chronic joint and muscle pain. This is especially common among those who do body weight exercises and weightlifting. The micro-tears on your muscles increase and swell or inflame making it hard for you to even straighten up.
The only way out of these side effects is workout recovery. A workout recovery is also important when you are into cardio vascular exercises. Running holds the same principal as weightlifting exercises when it comes to muscle tension. All vigorous workouts are designed to put your muscles under stress so they tear and grow to build mass.
Read the top 15 tools for a healthy lifestyle on fitr365.com.
Adaptation of Exercises
Generally, there are two types of exercises that your body adapts itself to. First is the body weight exercise known as muscle hypertrophy, second is cardio. These adaptations depend on the exercises you do. If you are into aerobics like Zumba or running, you will get into a better shape. Your VO2 increases which means that your body is using more oxygen during the exercise. All in all, this is a great way to increase your body’s endurance.
Muscle hypertrophy is the adaptation of exercises when you lift weights. This makes you stronger while growing the size of your muscles. The benefits of physical activities whether weight lifting or cardio are endless. However, the benefits take time to occur but getting appropriate resting time helps, you get there faster.
The second day of a workout is always the hardest. If you are into exercises, you know what we are talking about. It is difficult to move a muscle let alone lift weights. Using a recovery tool and giving your body ample time to rest will help you maximize the benefits.
Your performance will increase in each session and you will get into your “ideal shape” sooner. The overtraining syndrome is terrible, steer clear away from it otherwise your performance will reduce. How exactly does a recovery tool help? Let us find out.
Understanding Myofascial Release
If you understand what myofascial release is, you will understand the importance of foam rolling and massage guns. According to experts, myofascial release benefits your body greatly. Although there is not much research on the topic, understanding it is possible.
We all know what physical therapy is and when someone needs it. Look at myofascial release as a benefit of physical therapy. Some methods are used in physical therapy that allows fascia to become more elastic. This helps in increasing your mobility and releasing tension from your muscles. Percussive therapy – done by using a massage gun and foam rolling results in myofascial release.
Let us now understand what exactly is fascia. When you wash a chicken breast, there is a very thin white layer on top. Its elastic and you can tear it away while washing. That white layer is fascia and it is present on top of every muscle. Imagine it like layers and layers of cling wrap holding all the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in your body.
What makes Fascia inflexible?
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Many factors can cause fascia to tighten, most of these include lifestyle factors. The most common causes are dehydration, poor posture, lack of movement, injury and of course muscle stress. When the fascia in any part of the body muscle tightens or gets inflamed, it causes a lot of pain. When it tightens, your ability to move gets limited. Understanding What’s More Important: Flexibility or Mobility will help muscle trainees like yourself.
Having mobility in every part of the body is important for a healthy lifestyle. In case some part of your body is not mobile enough, another part will have to compensate. As a result, you will feel strain in other parts of your body. The lower back is usually the victim in such cases and if you continue to ignore, you may fall victim to chronic back pain. Try these stretches to help with lower back pain to keep yourself fit.
This is where recovery tools like foam rollers and massage guns come into play. As a part of your workout recovery, look into the features of both and decide what is best for you.
The Function of a Foam Roller
Foam rollers have always been there. You have seen them under the dark benches at your gym and those forgotten corners in your Zumba studio. However, they are making a comeback now. More athletes and fitness freaks are encouraging the use of foam rollers for themselves and others.
Foam rollers can do amazing things for your workout recovery. They help in removing the lactic acid out of tense muscles while helping you recover from a vigorous workout. The main purpose of using a foam roller is to support myofascial release to its fullest. These rollers are designed in a variety of sizes, densities and textures.
The longer ones help in rolling on both legs at ones and the back along with the shoulders. Once you get used to it, you will feel the need to use it every day. A higher density foam roller can feel like a good back massager that helps in relieving shoulder and neck tension. They are also available in smaller sizes that you can carry with you on long drives or when travelling. The smaller ones are great for a self-neck massage.
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Pros of Using a Foam Roller
- It is gentle on tight muscles with knots.
- You can roll out on a large foam roller to target larger areas of your body like back and shoulders. Or both legs at the same time.
- It is a cheaper investment and can easily be done anywhere. The lightweight allows you to carry one from home to gym and back.
- It supports in overall workout recovery and relieves muscles pain and tension. Foam roller is ideal for flexibility.
Cons of Using a Foam Roller
- Since it is simple, it cannot give you an intense massage with more force. A massage gun on the hand can.
- Smaller areas of the body are unreachable with a foam roller. The traps on the shoulder muscles can be only reached with a massage gun.
A foam roller is ideal for those who are looking to relieve everyday muscle tension from their bodies. You can use a roller regularly without the fear of any negative impact. There is no need of any sort of training before using it, just look at these exercises for its optimum performance. A roller is great for people who have a moderate workout routine and need support with flexibility.
Things to Keep in Mind
A review published in 2015 in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy showed that foam rolling reduced some of the muscle tension. It resulted in players have an increased range of motion. Giving birth to the notion that foam rolling loosens the knots of fascia making you more mobile and flexible.
However, a recent study conducted in 2019 concluded that calling a foam roller a myofascial release tool is actually deceptive. The review published in Sports Magazine states that it would take a thousand pound force to break down one layer of muscle and fascia tissue. In simpler words, imagine driving a truck over a layer to break it.
The true benefits of rolling foam is on the neurological changes in the muscles. According to Erwin Seguia, foam rolling stimulates nerve receptors, which allows your muscles to relax. It is all a game of the brain. Seguia is a certified specialist in sports physical therapy; he also founded Match Fit Performance.
Improving Overall Workout Performance
Furthermore, when you roll a foam on a particular part of your body, the nerve endings send a message to the brain. Your brain in return tells your muscles to relax. This is the same procedure your nervous system uses when you get a body massage. More research has linked using a foam roller to the release of oxytocin that helps in relaxing the body.
Although using a foam roller helps greatly in cooling down your body and releasing all the tension of the muscles, it is short-lived. In order to get long-lasting effects, a foam rolling session should be followed by warm up stretches. You can do these mobility warm-up moves after a rolling session.
One last thing to keep in mind that using foam roller before a workout improves your performance as well. The muscle tears are less and recovery time short. Since the foam roller increases blood flow in the targeted muscles, when you exercise, more oxygen is absorbed in those muscles. This greatly helps in the reduction of inflammation of the muscles.
The Function of a Massage Gun
Massage guns are the go-to for elite trainers and professional athletes. The functions of this device are many. Theragun in particular is a popular choice among the top fitness gurus (no wonder it is on the list of the best recovery tools of 2020).
After using a massage gun, you will feel wonderful! All the muscle tension and soreness from your body will release making you feel light for a good night’s sleep. It is especially great for your upper back and shoulders.
It works in a very simple way by helping your body remove lactic acid from the muscles after a workout. The lactic acid in your muscles makes you feel sore and a percussive therapy is the only way out. The pressure that a massage gun puts on the target area helps with that. It is a quick and accurate way of recovery.
Think of it as a super-charged massage and will take some time getting used to. Using a percussive force can feel strange at first since it is forceful and rapid. After a session or two, it feels like a massage. Let us look at the benefits you can reap from investing in a massage gun like the Theragun.
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Pros of Using a Massage Gun
- The high pressure of the gun gives you a deeper massage. The intensity gives you instant relief after a vigorous workout.
- You can target smaller, hard-to-reach areas like the shoulder muscles on the front. Theragun comes with detachable heads so you can choose different ones for different areas.
- The massage gun provides you with instant relief from muscle soreness, tension and aches.
Cons of Using a Massage Gun
- Most guns do not come with different settings for intensity. For people who are sensitive to massages, using this device is not a good idea.
- It does not cover larger areas of your body like a foam roller. You have to target one area at one time, which can be time consuming.
- A massage gun is not light on your wallet, it can cost up to $500 and more.
This is ideal for you if you are a serious athlete or you are a professional sports person. People who need solemn relief from muscle pain and tension. It can also help when a target muscle area has to be targeted.
Who Should Not Use a Massage Gun?
You might be tempted to use a massage gun after a good workout. However, there are certain times when you should best leave your muscles alone.
- Muscle Strain: Avoid using a massage gun if you have muscle strain. This happens when you “pull a muscle”. As the term suggests, your muscles are stretched farther than their normal range. Using a massage gun on such an area can worsen your condition.
- Sprain: in a sprain, the ligaments that hold your muscles together are torn. When you stretch your muscles past their normal range of motion, you hear a pop sound. It hurts really badly and your skin on the affected area goes red. Never use a massage gun on that area as the pressure would increase the gap giving you excruciating pain.
- Broken bones: although this is obvious but it is important to note. If you have an injured arm or leg, keep the gun away from it. Since it takes time for the bones to mend themselves, using a massage gun can dislocate them further. If you want to massage your shoulder while your arm is broken, do it cautiously.
- Chronic conditions: if you suffer from any chronic condition, do not invest in a massage gun. Conditions like hypertension, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, artery disease, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and severe varicose veins. These chronic disorders effect blood vessels, bone degeneration and high blood pressure. Doctors usually advice against a traditional massage too. For people with chronic illnesses, a professional massage by a physical therapist is ideal. On the other hand, if you want to relax your muscles at home, invest in a standard foam roller.
Things to Consider
A massage gun targets a specific smaller area of your muscle. As compared to a foam roller, you do not need to lie down and move your entire body. Just point the head of the gun at the muscle and switch it on, all that moves is your hand. The gun will oscillate at your preferred speed and relax the muscle tension.
Even though a massage gun sounds high-tech, the opinion of experts is still unclear. The functionality of a massage gun is similar to that of a foam roller where the muscles experience neurological changes. The rest of the work depends on the brain sending messages to the muscles to relax.
The biggest advantage where a massage gun wins over a foam roller is the preciseness of its stimulation. Since this gun comes with attachments of different headpieces, you can target a specific area that is troubling you. This is close to getting a massage from a professional masseuse. Read the benefits of getting a sports massage here.
Although massage guns were invented back in 2008, they did not make waves until Theragun released their first one in 2016. Apart from a handful studies, there is not much evidence, which proves the claims of the product. However, the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research concluded in one study that percussive gun therapy works. Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is treatable using a massage gun.
While the latest version of the Theragun, the Theragun Pro G4 is priced at $599, it is the best massage gun out there. As compared to its previous counterparts, the pro G4 is quieter and perfect for professional trainers. (For more options of massage guns, see here).
A foam roller’s cost varies and depends on the type and density. You can get a high quality foam roller for as low as $14 and as high as $200. If you want details on which foam roller to buy, see here.
So, Foam Roller or Massage Gun?
Looking at both the recovery tools objectively, there is no clear winner. Although, if you need a recovery tool and still cannot decide which to invest in, considering the price should do the trick. The foam roller is much cheaper and works fine for those who are into moderate workouts.
A massage gun, on the other hand, starts at $250 with cheaper options penetrating the market. When considering buying a massage gun, you need to figure out how sensitive you are to a massage. The intensity levels should be flexible where you can set the massage at a comfortable level.
Using Tools to Maximum Capacity
For any recovery tool to work efficiently, you will need to use it consistently. Typically, it should be used three times a week for about 5 to 10 minutes. When you invest in either of the tools, make sure you use it well. In addition to using a foam roller or a massage gun, you also need to consider a few things like:
- Getting adequate sleep
- Taking proper nutrition
- Giving your muscles proper recovery time
- Using the right movements
Combining all the above-mentioned things with a recovery tool is the best way to enhance your mobility and flexibility. A pre and post-workout warm-up session is as important as the workout itself. Taking multi-vitamins in addition to the workout helps you grow your muscles and maintain the ideal body shape.
In the end, it is all about staying within your body limits and not overdoing anything. Listen to your body and stop when you feel that you have pushed your muscles too far. Reaching your ideal body shape and weight goals take time. Nothing happens overnight, so patience and persistence is the key to success.
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