Rollers based on the age-old concept of vibration therapy are cropping up everywhere, but are some products are more effective than others? In this article, we look at two popular vibrating rollers, NextRoller and Hyperice, along with its more up-to-date version, Hypervolt.
Tales of Two Rollers
Faith Ellos is a model of fitness. Once focused on losing weight, she now focuses on constant progress with strength goals. Some weeks her goal is just to do one more pushup. Some weeks her goal is just to do one more pullup. She is constantly striving to add weights and repetitions to her resistance routine.
The biggest obstacle to progress, Ellos says, is stress. Faith Ellos relieves stress with the help of an increasingly popular device marketed as NextRoller. The compact configuration of Next Roller makes it just big enough to get the kinks out after a workout. The Nextrino Vibrating Foam Roller, she says, is just enough to relieve muscle tension and increase flexibility during recovery to prepare her for her next workout.
After endurance coach and ultrarunner Ian Sharman completed the Double Boston, running at an easy pace from the center of the city to the Boston Marathon’s starting line in Hopkinton before running the official race, he used a high-end vibrating foam roller called the Hyperice Vyper 2 to accelerate his recovery. The Hyperice device contains a rechargeable battery to power vibration. Noting that Hyperice feels a lot like myofascial release massage, Sharman told Outside Online “It’s like a jackhammer breaking up asphalt.”
These two athletes and millions more have found vibrating rollers that enhance their training. But are some rollers better than others? Is the roller that works best for you a matter of personal training factors? We’ll look at the comparative benefits of NextRoller vs. Hyperice, but first let’s review some basic concepts of rolling, vibration, and recovery.
How do rollers work, anyway?
There is a good reason a user of a vibrating foam roller would compare the experience to myofascial release massage. Vibrating foam rollers, and all massage rollers, exert their effects on the smooth layer of connective tissue just beneath the skin known as the fascia.
Fascia encloses, stabilizes, attaches, and separates individual muscles. It also keeps the muscles separate from the internal organs. Fascia consists of collagen as do tendons and ligaments, but it is more flexible. It reduces the friction of muscular force.
It ensures that blood vessels and nerves have a stable pathway to the muscles to keep them stimulated, hydrated, oxygenated, and nourished.
Fascia can become tight after workouts. They can provide so much enclosure, stability, attachment, and separation that pain results. The fascia needs to be released, so they provide just enough support to muscles and internal organs beneath them. But the much-touted myofascial release isn’t an intuitive maneuver.
That’s because the myofascial release is something like getting your muscles out of a Chinese finger puzzle. If you try to pull your fingers out of a Chinese finger puzzle, they just get stuck tighter. Only when you give in to the puzzle and move your fingers closer together can you get your fingers out.
Rollers provide releasing motion without providing tightening motion. The circular motion of the roller relaxes the fascia so there is less tension on sore muscles provided you don’t push and pull the roller back and forth and sideways in random motion. Rollers work when they shorten fibers in the fascia.
If you roll away along the length of fascia protecting an elongated and weakened muscle, you just make the fascia longer and weaker. Rollers need to be rolled across the fibers of the fascia to help them spring back into their normal configuration to support the muscle and relieve pain.
Why add vibration to a roller?
In the early 2000s, there was a surge of interest in whole-body vibration plates as training and therapeutic tool. Clinical studies didn’t just find that standing on whole-body vibration plates could keep you lose after a workout. They also found that whole-body vibration enhanced fat loss, enabled blood sugar control, build strength without resistance training, and smooth out the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.
There’s general agreement among researchers that whole-body vibration can reduce back pain, reduce bone loss, and improve balance and strength in older adults. There’s just one major problem with standing on a shaking platform for 15 to 30 minutes at a stretch: Most users develop a strong urge to poop. Add to that, the plates are expensive and clunky. It’s become hard to find a gym or a fitness enthusiast who has them.
Vibrating foam rollers, contrasted to vibration platforms, don’t offer all the systemic benefits, but they don’t cost thousands of dollars, and they don’t induce gastrointestinal distress. On the other hand, they provide targeted, far more effective myofascial release with several benefits that are made possible by their small size:
- Vibrating foam rollers provide the benefits of moist heat without steaming towels or heating pads. The vibration sends signals to muscles to contract. When the muscle contracts, blood flow increases. This delivers oxygen, water, glucose, and amino acids, all essential for muscle rebuilding after a workout. Increased metabolic activity causes the muscle to warm up without any need to heat the tissues above it.
- Vibrating foam rollers help their users deal with the perennial problem that some muscles are easier to warm up than others. Lee Brown, a sports scientist at California State University, Fullerton says that 15 minutes of vibrating roller massage provides a warm-up equivalent to a 15-minute jog, only targeted to the muscles treated with the vibrating roller.
- Vibrating foam rollers deliver signals that stimulate muscle growth even when their users cannot exercise. Loss of general muscle strength can be reduced when you are laid up with an injury. Over 50 scientific studies support the idea that training isn’t always essential for muscle growth.
Vibrating foam rollers work, but is one brand better than another? Let’s look at the comparative benefits of NextRoller and Hypervolt, the current product promoted by the makers of Hyperice.
NextRoller is made by Nextrino, a small company in San Diego, California. Nextrino is large enough to have had their products featured in testimonials by professional athletes on CBS, FOX, NBC, and more, but they are small enough to respond to customer needs on an individual basis. Many testimonials seem to confirm that NextRoller treats every customer as important. Here are some important NextRoller features at a glance.
NextRoller is advertised with a “100% no-questions-asked one year warranty.”
The NextRoller is 13 inches long and has a diameter of 6 inches. It weighs about 3 pounds. Customers note that it is large enough for treating IT (ileotibial) band pain common in runners and cyclists, but small enough for releasing fascia in the neck and torso that affect posture and stride.
NextRoller can be plugged into a wall outlet for easy charging between uses. One full charge (taking four to six hours plugged in) powers two hours of massage. The NextRoller is operated unplugged. If you want to take your NextRoller with you on a trip outside the US to some location that uses 240 V current, you will need to buy a voltage adapter.
Three adjustable speeds
NextRoller can be set to vibrate at three different speeds:
- 20 Hz (20 vibrations per second) relieves chronic pain. Recommended for use on small muscle groups such as biceps, calves, and shoulder.
- 40 Hz (40 vibrations per second) stimulates muscle growth. Used on the lower back.
- 67 Hz (67 vibrations per second) relieves acute pain. Best for larger muscle groups such as glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
The “foam” of the NextRoller is made of hard rubber, not as hard as a car tire, but not soft, either. The surface of the roller is textured, so you can vary the pressure over trigger points by the way you position the roller. Comes with a floss band (a compression band) you can attach to the ends of the roller to add additional pressure across your body to enhance myofascial release.
Biggest customer complaint
You have to take the handle off one end of the NextRoller so you can recharge it. When you put the handle back after recharging, you have to remember to lock it in place or it will fall off.
What do customers like about NextRoller?
Like its competitor Hyperice, NextRoller offers vibration at three speeds. The variability of vibration speed gives users control over how much warmth they want for their muscles and how much stimulation they want to give their muscles for expansion and rebuilding after a workout. Unlike Hyperice, NextRoller offers a relatively gentle high-speed option. Users who find Hyperice to be a little too much stimulation tend to be happy with the full range of therapy options with NextRoller.
If you are bulked out, you can use NextRoller. Some of NextRoller’s more famous customers are 300-pound-plus linebackers. Your body weight will not be too much for NextRoller’s sturdy construction.
The more weight you put on your NextRoller, that is, if you lie down on it, the more warming power it generates for your muscles. But you can also use NextRoller to give a massage to someone else.
While Hyperice Vyper 2.0 remains the roller of choice of many professional athletes and trainers and is still available on Amazon from private sellers, the company’s Hypervolt Handheld Percussion Massage Device incorporates many completely new design features with greater functionality.
Amazon is not an authorized reseller of either Hyperice or Hypervolt. You must order these products directly from the company to get a warranty.
The handheld Hypervolt offers percussion massage with an approximately 1-inch diameter percussion head. The device powering the percussion head is approximately 11 inches long and weighs 2.5 pounds.
Hypervolt can be plugged into a wall outlet for easy charging between uses. It can be used internationally without an adapter. One full charge (taking four to six hours plugged in) powers three hours of massage. The Hypervolt is operated unplugged.
Three adjustable speeds
Hypervolt advertises that it is the “only” device in its class that offers three adjustable speeds, but this is not accurate (see above). The highest speed is 4000 rpm, which translates to about 65 Hz, slightly less energetic than NextRoller.
Hypervolt has been designed with “whisper technology” for silent operation. However, the Hypervolt delivers much less power than either Hyperice or Next Roller.
Biggest customer complaint
Electrical problems seem to be an issue when the Hypervolt is recharged on 240 V current. Many international users report an electrical burning smell after just a few uses.
And even when the device is bought with a valid warranty, the manufacturer’s customer service gets highly unfavorable reviews.
What do customers like about Hypervolt?
Hypervolt is not so much a massage device as it is a “knot breaking” device. It is best used for intensive treatment of small areas of muscle tension. You can use Hypervolt to treat yourself or to treat someone else.
Should I get a Hyperice instead of Hypervolt?
The older Hyperice units are available through Amazon from private sellers. Hyperice has many of the same features as NextRoller, although at about double the price, but Hyperice is loud and hard to control. One of the big complaints about the Hyperice, predecessor device to the Hypervolt, was that it ran so hard that if you left it on the floor it would vibrate itself into the next room.
If this is your first massage device, you are likely to be happier with NextRoller. Save the Hyperice/Hypervolt family of products for advanced applications.
What are the reasonable expectations of vibration roller therapy?
Vibration roller therapy significantly enhances training. They aren’t just great for recovery. They can help you preserve a range of motion after minor injuries, and they can promote blood flow for muscle growth and resolution of injuries.
Don’t expect your vibration roller to be a cure-all, but learn the techniques that ensure you use your vibration roller effectively. Every workout and every competition should be followed by vibration roller massage to prevent aches and pains and preserve muscle gains from your hard work.