Foam rollers are proven to help boost blood flow, break down scar tissue, reduce muscle soreness, increase range of motion, and much more.

Adding this into your exercise routine will help you recover better and improve your performance in the gym. 

Most gyms will have foam rollers but what if you don't have one at home and need an alternative? You're in the right place, because I have rounded up the best 8 best foam roller alternatives you can try at home.

We have a list of the best alternatives out there below. These have all proven to help with loosening up muscle tension and, in many cases, are even more effective than foam rollers!

From massage guns to massage sticks to a homemade foam roller, we have a solution for everyone.

Here are my top 8 foam roller substitute that you probably already have at home.

1. Tennis Ball, Baseball, Lacrosse Ball

woman using a tennis ball as a foam roller alternative

Virtually any ball is going to work for self-myofascial release (SMR) rather than a foam roller. I've found that a lacrosse ball or tennis ball tend to be the most efficient because they are firm.

They're a crowd favorite for relieving foot pain, particularly plantar fasciitis.

Using a ball is helpful for working out knots in the upper back muscles due to the small surface size.

Intense pressure comes from the firmness of the ball so if it's too much then I recommend opting for one that is a bit softer.


  • Ideal for applying pressure to specific tight spots and promotes muscle recovery.[1]
  • Increases circulation and promotes blood flow.
  • Increases joint flexibility allowing for greater range of movement.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab the lacrosse ball or tennis ball and use it either against the wall or place it on the floor.
  2. Apply pressure against the muscles that are sore or tight.
  3. Roll over this spot for about 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Stop and apply more pressure and hold for 30 seconds in very tight spots. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't push too hard, there will be slight discomfort but not pain. This is the kind of exercise that should "hurt so good" but remember don't overdo it by applying too much of your body weight onto the ball. 

2. Massage Stick or Rolling Pin

man using a massage stick for myofascial release

These offer more control than balls, as they come with handles on either side. This makes it easier to target and apply more pressure to your liking.

Massage sticks often come with little spikes to offer a deep-tissue kind of massage and you can apply as much pressure as you need.

Many of us already have rolling pins at home, and these work great, as well. If just the pure rolling pin is too intense for you, try wrapping a dish towel around it to make it a bit softer.


  • The smaller contact area makes it easy to apply the right amount of pressure and to target tight spots.
  • The handles make it really easy to use.
  • Helps to release tight muscles and reduce muscle soreness. 

How To Do It:

  1. Start by sitting in a seat or on the floor.
  2. Hold the massage stick or rolling pin by either handle and start rolling your quads, starting near your knee and working your way upwards.
  3. Spend longer working into the tight spots, around 15-30 seconds.

Tips From A Trainer!

I recommend using a massage stick along with stretching after your workout. This will greatly reduce your risk of muscle strain injuries. 

3. Broomstick

man using a broomstick as a foam roller alternative

This is another one that is a great option if you are on a budget or don't yet want to invest in something that you aren't sure you're going to use regularly.

This, like a rolling pin, gives you more control over the pressure you apply and where exactly you use it. 

However, broomsticks are thinner than rolling pins, which means they can target smaller areas. We actually recommend a broomstick to break up scar tissue, as well as muscle adhesions in the quads, hamstrings, and calves. 


  • High amount of pressure control.
  • Easy and cheap option.
  • Relieves tension and helps muscles recover faster.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit down on the floor.
  2. Place the middle of the broomstick on your quads using your palms to roll. 
  3. Take your time to roll upwards towards your hip.
  4. Turn your knee inwards to work up the IT band as well.
  5. Spend 15-30 seconds working into any tight spots.

Tips From A Trainer!

Broomsticks are also great for stretching movements. You can hold it behind your back and stretch your shoulders joints. 

Related Article: Foam Rolling Lats

4. Barbell

man using a barbell as a foam roller alternative

Okay, we're going to preface this by saying using a barbell is definitely not for everyone in terms of removing muscle tension and some people can't handle the added pressure to sensitive muscles. It is a very effective form of self myofascial release. 

They're obviously significantly heavier than a broom, so if you need additional pressure, then it's perfect. Usage is a bit different from a foam roller as you use the barbell to roll over the muscles and tissue, rather than having a roller under you.

It's perfect for targeting smaller spots on the body. The best way to use a barbell is to hold on to the barbell itself and roll the knurled sleeve (barbell end) over your sore muscles. This provides similar benefits that foam rollers do.


  • Provides extra weight for those who need increased pressure on sore muscles.
  • The barbell is smooth and rolls so it's easy to roll over the muscles.
  • Helps reduce muscle soreness and tightness.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit down on the floor next to an empty barbell
  2. Place the end of the barbell on your quad, starting near your knee.
  3. Take your time to roll the barbell upwards towards your hip.
  4. Turn your knee inwards to work up the IT band as well.
  5. Spend 15-30 seconds working into any tight spots.

Tips From A Trainer!

This alternative is best for when you're in a bind and don't have anything else to use. If you can use a lighter object, such as a broom stick, that would be easier. 

5. Trigger Point Massage Ball

Man Doing a Trigger Point Massage With a Ball

As we previously mentioned, balls can be very effective for self myofascial release making it a great foam roller substitute– particularly in smaller spots that foam rollers can't target as well.

However, these massage balls are larger than a tennis or lacrosse ball and are designed exactly for this purpose. Massage balls are ideal for working into muscle knots in your upper back and releasing tight calf muscles. 

Many even come with pressure-point spikes, which offer a deeper tissue massage for greater muscle relief. If you're just starting out with SMR, this is a great tool. 


  • Promotes muscle recovery. 
  • Increases blood circulation and promotes blood flow.
  • Regular use helps prevent injury and pain.

How To Do It:

  1. Hold the ball against the wall or place it onto the floor. 
  2. Apply pressure against the muscles that are sore or tight.
  3. Roll over this spot for about 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Stop and apply more pressure and hold for 30 seconds in very tight spots. 

Tips From A Trainer!

This is another great option for using in tandem with a pre-workout stretching routine. If you don't stretch, you should definitely start. 

6. Hard Plastic Bottle

woman using plastic bottle as foam roller

Using a water bottle instead of a foam roller is one way to get creative with self myofascial release though they're not as effective as the traditional foam roller.

They are shorter and thicker, and can be great for releasing tight muscles in the legs and your calf muscles if you don't have a foam roller.

Pay attention to how durable the bottle is – we don't want you breaking it! Using a tumbler full of ice can give you a cooling effect as well for this homemade foam roller. 


  • Reduces muscle inflammation.
  • Aids relaxation and decreases muscle soreness. 
  • Cheap and easy.

How To Do It:

  1. Place the bottle onto the floor.
  2. Start with hamstrings or quads and roll starting at the knee working your way upwards.
  3. Switch over to the opposite side of the body.
  4. Roll slowly, stoping and working into tight spots.
  5. Roll out the calves, applying pressure for 15-30 seconds in tight spots.

Tips From A Trainer!

Basically, any bottle will work. A large reusable and hard bottle is the best option, however. 

Related Article: How To Fix Tight Lats

7. TheraGun

Woman Using Thera Gun

Step aside traditional foam roller because technology is progressing and making self myofascial release easier and better than ever without visiting your local massage therapist.

Massage guns have been around for quite a while, but in recent years have really exploded in popularity and effectively work into those sore muscles without a foam roller. Using percussive massage therapy, muscle tension and pain are relieved through vibrations. 

The rate and strength of the vibrations can be adjusted, and the massage guns typically come with different types of attachments to allow for more versatility.

You can use it with a more concentrated, broad, soft, or deep-tissue focus. It is awesome for improving muscle soreness without booking in for a deep tissue massage.


  • Helps tight muscles loosen up and recover, helping you perform better at your next workout.
  • Good for targeting larger muscle groups. 
  • Reduces stress, tension and down regulates the nervous system for better recovery. 

How To Do It:

  1. Turn on the massage gun before placing it on your body.
  2. Place it on your body allowing it to glide along your muscles without adding any more pressure.
  3. If you find a knot or tight spot spend extra time, around 15-30 seconds before slowly gliding the gun along the muscle.
  4. Take deep breaths as you slowly move the massage gun around your body.
  5. Adjust the power as needed. Start with less and increase as needed.

Tips From A Trainer!

You have probably seen these TheraGuns used by top-tier athletes during the Olympics! Massage guns have become very popular over the past few years and for good reason. 

woman using pvc pipe for smr

PVC pipe is an excellent alternative if you don't have the other items at home and want something inexpensive. Try grabbing a piece 6-12 inches long; whatever works for you. 

You can get it at a local hardware store for easily less than 10 bucks. You'll use this pipe just as you would your average foam roller. I find it works particularly well on the upper back and legs. 


  • Heavy duty and likely to last you a long time. 
  • Increases range of motion and mobility. 
  • Decreases muscle soreness. 

How To Do it:

  1. Sit down on the floor.
  2. Place PVC pipe underneath you and start with the front or back of your body.
  3. Take your time to roll towards your heart.
  4. Slowly roll over the muscle, trying to apply pressure that you can handle. 
  5. Spend 15-30 seconds working into any tight spots.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise for SMR is similar to using a broomstick. You might find that a PVC pipe is a bit more durable, however. 

Benefits Of Foam Roller Alternatives

Using a foam roller alternative at home is helpful for just about anyone. Benefits of foam rolling are that they can help reduce muscle soreness, promote muscle recovery, increase range of motion, improve circulation, and much more.

If you have experienced a muscle injury, you may notice more tension in that area. This is a natural response by the body to "protect" it. However, poor posture or incorrect body mechanics can also overload the fascia and connective tissue, making the muscles tighter. 

These alternatives will help release that tension, releasing that tightness and increasing elasticity. Using foam rolling alternatives is crucial for proper movement and for minimizing the risk of injury.

You can do these at the gym or at home, but we recommend keeping your alternative at home so you can use it whenever you're watching TV or have a free moment.  

Mistakes To Avoid When Doing Foam Roller Substitutes

When using a substitute for a foam roller, there are some rules that you want to follow. Try to avoid rolling over bony spots or joints, as this can actually cause or increase inflammation.

Also, take caution over the lower back and neck – or just avoid them completely. Hyperextension is a great risk here, so try a smaller tool like a tennis ball in this area.[2]

There will often be a kind of discomfort while rolling, but it should never be serious pain or prolonged discomfort. Tying into this point, avoid overworking an area.

We recommend rolling for about 30 seconds on each spot, repeating for up to around 2 minutes.  

Frequently Asked Foam Rolling Questions

Can I use a yoga mat as a foam roller? 

Using a yoga mat as a foam roller is not going to cause you any harm, but it’s also unlikely to yield you results as it’s so soft. You need something more dense and firm so that pressure can be applied.

Can foam rolling be harmful? 

If done correctly, it’s absolutely safe to use foam rollers. However, if you have a serious injury such as a muscular tear, you need to ask your physician or physical therapist before doing anything.

Do I need very hard items to do muscular rolling? 

It shouldn’t be so soft that it’s very compressed when you apply pressure to your muscles. Tennis balls work great if you're not ready for something harder than that. They are durable but still have a little bit of flex to them.

Is stretching the same as muscle rolling? 

No, stretching is not the same as muscle rolling, however, both can help lengthen muscles and boost flexibility and range of motion. Stretching can be performed after foam rolling for best results. Stretching isn’t addressing the myofascial layer and really getting in deep to break up those connections.  


Now that you’re practically an expert regarding all foam rolling alternatives, which tool are you going to incorporate into your fitness regimen?

We hope that our guide is able to guide you to the perfect tool for you! Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again shortly! 




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website