Muscle Roller Sticks are a simple and powerful self-massage tool for increased mobility, speeding up recovery, and boosting performance in the gym (and life!).
Here is a breakdown of the best muscle roller sticks for deep tissue massage, injury management, and more.
- Best Cushioned Muscle Roller: Tiger Tail Original
- Best Muscle Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: Sportneer Deep Tissue Muscle Roller Stick
- Best Bargain Muscle Roller Stick: IDSON Body Massage Stick
- Best Spiked Muscle Roller Stick: Gaiam Spiked Massage Roller
For a deeper look at each of our selections, check out the more detailed breakdown of each muscle roller stick below.
Tiger Tail Original Muscle Stick
The black foam cushioning, durability, and comfort on the Tiger Tail makes it our top pick for best-cushioned muscle rolling stick.
The Tiger Tail is the old guy on the block when it comes to muscle roller sticks. It was the first one I purchased, something like seven years ago, and it still works almost as well now as it did then.
Instead of a plastic roller, Tiger Tails have a smooth and cushioned black foam roller. The Tiger Tail has ribbed handles and comes in several sizes. The 18” is the most common size, but there is also a 22” and more travel-friendly 11” version.
The black foam is a good option for those body parts that are too sensitive or too painful to be treated with the plastic muscle rollers.
Where to Buy — Tiger Tail Original Muscle Stick
Sportneer Deep Tissue Muscle Roller Stick
For those looking for a deeper tissue massage, the Sportneer Muscle Roller Stick features deep-ribbed plastic gears for attacking soreness.
Along with the Tiger Tail, the Sportneer Muscle Roller Stick is a key piece of my mobility and post-workout recovery arsenal. It features ten plastic gear treads that run smoothly and deeply over your skin, hitting deep into your muscles.
- See also: Crank up muscle recovery by combining the proven power of vibration therapy and foam rolling with a breakdown of the best vibrating foam rollers.
The treads just out about 1/4 inch, helping them dive deep into your muscles. The shaft is made of steel, the anti-slip handles are polypropylene plastic, and at 17.5″ in total length, can be easily transported.
Another nice benefit of the Sportneer Muscle Stick is the threaded loop at the top of the stick, which means you can handle it for easy storage.
Where to Buy — Sportneer Deep Tissue Muscle Roller Stick
IDSON Body Massage Stick
At less than $10, the IDSON Body Massage Stick is my top pick for best bargain muscle roller stick.
Exceedingly well-reviewed on Amazon, the IDSON Body Massage Stick has nine independent rollers and two anti-slip handles that create an ergonomic grip for max comfort and pressure.
Whether you want to target your calves, hamstrings, lower back, or anywhere else, the IDSON Body Massage Stick is a killer pick.
Where to buy — IDSON Body Massage Stick
Gaiam Spiked Muscle Roller Stick
The unique design of the Gaiam Muscle Roller–featuring three spiked balls rolling on a steel shaft–gives a smooth and deep massage.
I absolutely love this muscle roller, which features three massage balls covered in soft plastic spikes. The balls roll smoothly when applied over the skin, penetrating deep into your muscles.
Designed to provide a maximal amount of tissue stimulation and also increase blood circulation, the Gaiam Muscle Massage Roller Stick comes in the standard 18″ length.
The handles are a soft rubber that helps you keep a firm and comfortable grip while you blast away muscle soreness and target trigger points.
How to choose the best massage roller stick
Muscle roller sticks come in a wide range of sizes, densities and blade designs.
Color and price-point aside, here are the main things to look out for when picking out the right muscle roller stick for you and your goals in the gym:
The beads or the roller on each stick come in a few different materials.
Rollers usually have a thin layer of EVA foam that is antimicrobial and is relatively gentle on the skin, making it ideal for newbies or those looking strictly for increased blood flow to target muscles.
More advanced users will want to use a spiked roller that can really dig in and target hard-to-reach muscles and areas. If you have experience with self-massage, or you want to nuke some pesky muscle knots, a beaded roller stick is a solid option.
Before you choose a stick, think about your pain tolerance and how you are going to use it.
Muscle rollers work best when you can properly grip it. Duh, right?
Most of them come with two handles on each end that not only help you better secure the stick in your hands, but allow you to apply pressure without your hands getting tired.
Finally, choosing a muscle stick means having an idea of how much ground you want to be able to cover when using it.
Spiky beads will cover less area but will hit target muscles more aggressively.
Conversely, rollers that have a flatter surface—like the EVA foam covered muscle rollers—can cover more ground.
Again, this goes back to the goals you have with this self-massage device.
Do massage roller sticks reduce muscle soreness?
These tools work by targeting muscle tissue, working out toxins that can cause DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and promoting blood flow to target areas.
The combination of these two things help to significantly reduce muscle soreness, making them a must have part of your post-workout recovery routine.
Roller sticks are also excellent at working out the stiffness of ligaments surrounding joints. Use them on your days off from your training regimen to maintain range of motion, decrease soreness, and even reduce stress.
How do I use a muscle roller stick?
Muscle roller sticks are an easy tool to incorporate into your recovery routine. They are also remarkably user-friendly and have a very short learning curve.
It’s easy to adjust the amount of pressure (an option that isn’t always available with other self-massage tools like foam rollers) and you don’t need to lay down on the ground to use it.
I really like that you can scale the pressure of stick rollers as you can work on really sore muscles without having to put all your body weight on it (like you would have to with a foam roller).
Roller sticks have independent blades or rollers on the stick, which makes it a breeze to roll across sore body parts like your neck, hamstrings, calves, forearms, and so on.
How much pressure should I use with a massage roller stick?
Here are some general rules of thumb when busting out the roller stick to do some self-massage:
- Light pressure works best for promoting blood flow to a group of muscles. This level of pressure is relaxing.
- Medium pressure can be used to loosen up sore muscles and is great for getting range of motion back before or after a big workout.
- Use hard pressure to break up muscle knots or scar tissue. This level of pressure can be uncomfortable and will leave you feeling sore afterwards.
Of course, these are loose guidelines.
If you are experiencing pain while using the massage stick, stop or move to a different body part.
What’s better: a foam roller or a muscle roller stick?
For people serious about mobility, both tools have a place in your recovery routine. While they generally have the same function, the way that they get there is what sets them apart.
Foam rollers depend on your body weight to perform self-myofascial release while massage roller sticks require you to apply the pressure.
Foam rollers are also much larger (bulkier) and can provide more coverage, making them ideal for larger muscle groups. They also need to be used laying down, so there are some limitations on how much they can be used.
Muscle roller sticks are smaller and portable. They are easier to maneuver compared to a foam roller. And while foam rollers can cover more ground on your body, roller sticks are better suited to targeting hard to reach spots.
More Recovery Gear Guides
I’ve put together several other gear guides on products that facilitate athletic performance and increase recovery.
Best Foam Rollers for Athletes and Gymgoers. Interested in foam rolling, but don’t know what kind to get or what to look for in one? Here are the best foam rollers for boosting recovery, decreasing muscle soreness, and improving mobility and flexibility in your muscles and joints.
Best Kinesiology Tapes for Improved Performance and Recovery. Looking for some quality kinesiology tape for managing injuries, supporting muscles and ligaments, and improving athletic performance? Here is a breakdown of popular kinesiology tapes, and which kinds of K-tape are best for your particular goals in the gym.