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  • Jun

    Top Self Massagers Compared - The Gangloff Review


    Hey guys! It’s Mark Gangloff and I am back with another product review. Let me start this post by thanking everyone who gave feedback on my last post. Your comments, questions, and general interest have gotten me even more excited about continuing to share my own experience and thoughts with you about the products that I choose and love. I hope you will enjoy this review just as much!

    This review will be a little bit different from the last one, as it is not about equipment that I use in the pool. Instead, it is an out-of-water, out-of-practice piece of equipment.  Yet, it’s VITAL to my success. I have been swimming for the last 22 years and I have never had any major injuries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is, "How do you prevent injuries?" My answer is always, "I get regular massages." Most people think (and sometimes even say), "Oh he is an Olympian and is entitled to a fancy massage." I have to explain to them that while I do get a massage every two weeks, the majority of massages I do myself.  I give myself some sort of massage at least every other day – if not every day. 

    While this review is not intended to be a teaching session, I must say this: DO NOT WALK OFF DECK WITH TIGHT MUSCLES. IT MAKES TOMORROW MUCH HARDER. While stretching does help, I find a combination of stretching and massage is what really allows me to maintain high levels of performance day in and day out.

    During this review, I am going to be speaking specifically about three of the products that SwimOutlet carries:

    1. AeroMat Elite Foam Roller
    2. Tiger Tail Rolling Muscle Massager
    3. Moji 360 Massager

    There are several different foam rollers and massagers on, but many of them are variations of the same product. So I will review these three categories and will do my best to make suggestions about the other products along the way. I will start this review with the most general type of massager and move onto massagers great for specific uses. 

    First and foremost: Why use a self-massager? The main reason for using a self-massager is for myofacial release, which is a fancy way of saying “relaxing tight muscles.” The other, less obvious reason to use a self-massager is to warm up before a workout. In fact, I use one kind of massager for warming up and another for muscle relaxation. I’ll explain my reasoning throughout the review.

    Here we go… 



    The first product I would like to talk about is the AeroMat Elite Foam Roller 6" x 36". I have been using foam rollers like this for quite a long time. They are great for larger muscle groups. To use this type of self-massager, you will place the roller on the ground and roll your body weight on top of it. I use simple videos posted on YouTube for new ideas about how to use a roller like this. I really like using this foam roller for the big muscles in my legs (quads, glutes, hamstrings and IT band) and my back.  

    How I like to use it:  

    I like to use t this product most appealing is POST-workout when my muscles are warmed up. After a long session in the weight room or after a long kick set in the water, it feels good to get my leg and back muscles back to their normal state of relaxation. As a breaststroker, it is crucial that I get my quads and hamstrings to relax so that they can recover for the next day’s practice. I also feel that a foam roller – like the AeroMat Elite – is the best massager for back muscles. A hand massager just doesn’t seem to compare to the amount of pressure you can generate using your body weight on a foam roller. 

    What is the best size?

    My favorite size foam roller is the 6" x 36" or the 6" x 35". This size is plenty big enough to do rolling on both legs and your back. Another great way to use the longer roller is to lie down on it with the roller along your spine. (See Picture)


    It feels great to lengthen your spine out without having to roll. But if you're traveling, you will probably want to pick one a smaller roller. You will notice that the Pro Tec Travel size has a 4-inch diameter and this one is great for travel because it can fit into a carry on. Just note that the 4-inch diameter will make the massage a little more intense because there is not as much surface area spread out on your muscles.  

    Warning: If you have never used a roller like this, the pressure can be really intense and sometimes overwhelming – especially if you have never gotten any type of deep tissue massage. There are various techniques to add or take away pressure. I highly recommend doing your research, trying various techniques, and finding out which roller exercises are best for you.


    Works great on larger muscle groups; best for getting deep massage; best product for working out back muscles; the more you use it the better it feels; uniform pressure over the muscle.


    Not great PRE-workout when muscles are not warmed up; can be painful if you do not know how to adjust pressure; hard to really pinpoint acute problems.  



    The next product I am going to talk about is the 18" Tiger Tail Rolling Muscle Massager. To use this product, you grab the orange handles on each side and the black part in the middle rolls independently from the handles. The orange handles are made just like the handles of a bicycle. They feel very sturdy and do not get slippery (even after jumping out of the pool). The black material in the middle is firm, but it does have just a little bit of “sponginess” that makes it more comfortable than others I’ve used.  I was initially a little scared that the black material would catch on my clothes or on my body hair because it feels a little “grippy”, but I was pleasantly surprised when I started using it.  It glides across your skin and clothes without pulling or getting caught.  

    Included with the Tiger Tail is an instruction manual on how to use it. It provides an overview of how to position the massager to target specific muscle groups.  This is helpful to users who have never used a self-massager like this.  

    One of the great benefits of using this product is that you can adjust the intensity of the massage. If there is a problem area or a knot that does not seem to go away, you can really crank up the pressure in a specific area with the Tiger Tail and get to it. On the other hand, if you would like a lighter massage you can just back off and still get the desired effects. This is great for your PRE-workout routine. 

    How I like to use it:  

    I usually start using my Tiger Tail prior to a workout. I really like using this massager to get the blood flowing and also to break up any small knots that may be in my muscles.  The instruction manual suggests 15-30 seconds on each muscle group that you would like to warm up. Generally, I roll over my glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and lower back depending on how I am feeling. Like I said earlier, you can adjust the pressure depending on how you are feeling. If I am sore, I start much lighter and work a little longer. If I am not sore, I will usually make a few swipes with the Tiger Tail and get started with my workout. (See Picture)


    I also use the Tiger Tail for massage on my feet. I have used a ball to massage my feet in the past, but I prefer to use this because it is flat and still rolls. 

    Similar to the Aero Mat foam roller, it is still a bit difficult to target extremely specific problem areas. There are times when I get some soreness in the front of my shoulders or in some of the connective tissue behind my knees. While the Tiger Tail is more conducive to targeting specific muscle groups than the large foam rollers, it is still not the best for small, intense muscle soreness. The wide surface area of this massager lends itself to a hybrid categorization: it works medium sized muscle groups with flexibility due its manual pressure application. 

    What is the best size?

    When it comes to the size of the Tiger Tail, there are two questions to ask yourself: (1) What is my body size? And (2) Do I want to travel with it? Choose the Tiger Tail that's best for you based on your whether or not you can comfortably reach the handles as you move the massager across various muscle groups. Because travel plays a big role in my life, whether or not a piece of equipment can fit in a carry-on determines my use of the product when I’m on the road. This may or may not be decision criteria for you, but it is worth mentioning. 


    Great for your Pre-workout routine; can adjust the pressure depending on how you are feeling; the pressure is uniform over the muscles (ideal for warm up); easy to travel with.  


    The pressure is uniform (not ideal for acute problems); difficult to use with just one hand; you need a partner for work from the neck to the mid back. 




    The last product of my review is the Moji 360 self-massager. This product is really going to appeal to the person who likes products that are more “high tech.” Moji is a company that really invests time and energy in research and development leading to very innovative products.  What comes with innovation and technology? You guessed it, $$$. I would still consider the price reasonable; I have paid more for a 45-minute massage than the total price of this product. With that said, I know that product cost is nothing to take lightly. However, while a bit pricier than the others I've reviewed, this has some great features and may be well-worth the price to you and your specific needs. 

    When you first get ahold of the Moji, you will immediately notice the extra craftsmanship that goes into this product. The outside is made of a hard plastic and when you grip it – whether on the outside handles or in the center – this product feels sturdy. On the bottom side of the Moji, you‘ll find 10 independent ball bearings: on the outside are two sets of two larger balls, and the inside is a set of six smaller balls. The configuration of these balls is very comfortable, they really "hug" your muscles. 

    The other great thing about the Moji is that it is an "Omni Directional" massager. What does that mean? The Aero Mat and the Tiger Tail massagers only roll in one direction, but the ball bearings on the Moji allow you to massage in any direction. This is critical when trying to work out knots, because massaging it in a different directions – along the muscle fiber vs. across the grain of the fiber – allows the knot to release without as many "rolls” of a "single direction" massager. 

    How I like to use it:

    I like using this product primarily for working out specific muscle groups or knots that are giving me problems. I recommend using this product Pre- and/or Post-workout, but I tend to use Moji mostly when something pops up out of the blue. To give you an example, I do a lot of sculling during my workouts to help my breaststroke pull.  This sculling motion really tightens up my forearms and elbows. Using the Moji, I am able to take the product and use one hand to massage the other one. Of the products I have reviewed, this is the only one that allows you to use one hand, which makes it the best self-massager to work on your arms and shoulders without needing a partner. (See Pictures)


    What is the best size?

    Since I reviewed the Moji 360 with handles, I will say that one size fits all. This product will travel great and you can get to most areas of your body without a problem.  There is a Moji 360 Palm massager that I did not review here. In my opinion you will get the same benefit from the Moji 360 with handles, but it is all personal preference.  


    Great for specific problems or knots; great craftsmanship; allows for "omni directional" use; you can use it with only one hand; one-size-fits-all, so no need for a tough sizing decision; easy to travel with. 


    I prefer uniform pressure for a pre-workout warm up; price is slightly higher; the handle is short for some work on your back, so it is difficult to hit some problem areas on your back. 

    Final Thoughts

    Like other products, the right product depends on you and your specific needs. However, regardless of your personal preference, training style, or unique soreness, I believe that massage is important for any and every athlete. 

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    7 years ago.
    Thanks for the review Mark, I'm looking for ways to get faster. Thanks for your insights, I will try this to recover better and handle stress from work so that I can get better workouts.
    7 years ago.
    Great reviews! I use my foam roller almost daily, Looks like I'm going to have to check out the Moji too.
    7 years ago.
    Never ever place anything directly on the spine such as a foam roller, thumb etc, even more so when you are lying on it! Number one rule in massage! That is why better to leave the massage to the pros unless you are schooled properly by a massage therapist on how to do self therapy. What you are doing is very generalized. Get trigger point therapy from a pro which is more intense, specific, and focused therapy. From there your therapist should instruct on how to work on your own trigger points. There are also books out there on self trigger point therapy, but nothing replaces a good therapist. If you are doing any sport professionally you should be getting therapeutic massage 1-2 times per week at least!
    7 years ago.
    Thanks for the info. I've only recently started using the foam roller & it's greatly helped my IT band. Note that newbies, like myself, will want to start out on a white roller (the softest) then build up to the blue one (medium density). It's taken me a while to build up to the black roller (the hardest density) and I'm still not putting all my weight on the roller.
    Looking forward to trying out the Moji.
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