The new BackBaller is used to roll out your muscles, including your legs and back, and to strengthen your core. A 20-minute work-out has been devised to go with it.
By Ronan McDonnell
I already have a regular foam roller, so I’m used to foam rolling fairly frequently.
Throughout the season I’d use it during a heavy week with a few races or between stages on the rare occasion I’d pull myself from real life to do a stage race.
But mostly I just use it when my legs feel stiff, which luckily is not often for me because foam rollers are torture devices.
But this review is for the BackBaller, which is a different animal to regular foam rollers.
The most obvious difference is that the BackBaller – devised by Irish inventor and former runner Noel Marshal with world renowned physical therapist Ger Hartman – is actually two removable rollers on a base.
Unlike my regular foam roller which came wrapped in plastic with some half-baked instructions stuck to it, the BackBaller comes in a box; no plastic wrap here.
That presentation is important because it’s an indication that this is a well made piece of kit.
At the full price, of €60, it’s a bit steeper than the normal foam rollers, but the attention here is to detail.
The foam is dense; properly dense. The plastic of the two roller barrels is heavy duty, as is the plastic base which has rubber feet to stop it slipping.
The most impressive part of the build is the bearings – two on each roller and really smooth. The feet on the base grip the floor well.
The BackBaller alongside the piece of kit it looks to replace, the regular foam roller.
Putting it back in the box, the removable rollers slipped from the base. That got me thinking; removable parts are handy, making the whole thing more portable though not as much as a foam roller.
It’s only ever going to be as compact as its largest component and the base still has a bit of bulk to it.
Travelling to a race or leisure event it would take up a lot of bag space, making it somewhat impractical if space is tight.
Added to that, each roller is relatively narrow. I’m quite a small guy and when I was rolling my back I felt OK. But I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was broader.
Admittedly it’s a trade-off; if each roller was broader, the device would be a beast and you’d be mad to carry it around.
As it is, it’s about the size of a deskjet printer, or for those with kids it’s the size of a car booster seat. For my club mates, it’s the size of eight spice bags from the takeaway stood beside each other.
Foam roller comparison
If, like me, you have a foam roller you may be tempted to think: ‘Another roller, so what?’
And if you already have a roller it would be hard to justify the cost of a new one.
But the BackBaller definitely is different; and it’s all the better for it.
The BackBaller comes with a single A4 sheet that describes a 20-minute routine which I decided to follow.
Watching TV while doing the 20 minutes flew by. The same muscles that hurt on other foam rollers hurt on this too.
But with the routine, you know in 1 minute you’re moving to different muscles, so there is a reward.
This routine aspect seems to me to be the key to what the BackBaller does better than all the others.
It’s much more of a programme; using it regularly you’d have fresher legs and less back stiffness, but also a stronger core.
For many of the exercises you are holding yourself in position; something my depleted cyclist’s upper body found hard.
I could see that regular use would be beneficial it that regard too.
The double roller effect
Rolling your back on a normal foam roller feels like an enormous amount of pressure to place on one narrow band; like you’ll snap yourself in half.
But with the BackBaller having two sturdy rollers to spread across, you can really roll out your back much better without fear of injury.
Aside from the size issue, which I feel arises from a thoughtful compromise between compactness and ergonomics; it’s a far better roller than the ordinary foam tubes.
Bringing it places will require a small bit more lugging, but actually getting into the routine of regular use seems far more likely.
If you don’t already have a foam roller, spend a bit extra and get one of these – unless you’ll be travelling with it a lot.
And if you’re not sure about foam rollers at all; they do work, for me at least.