Is FOAM ROLLING actually helpful? (short answer.... HELL YEAH)
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
Self myofascial release (a.k.a foam rolling or spikey ball release) is being used by more and more people in the fitness and rehab world and it claims to do all sorts of things from injury prevention to enhancing joint range of motion.
SO WHY SHOULD WE DO IT?
Previously we were all told to stretch before a work out, but the research has shown that static stretching (i.e. holding stretches) has been found to decrease power output by up to 15%!!! Studies have shown that self-myofascial release (SMR) can give you all the benefits you would expect from static stretching (enhance joint range of motion, decrease the effects of both acute muscle soreness and delayed onset muscle soreness), but it produced NO SIGNIFICANT change in muscle function.
Simply put... you're better off releasing rather than doing static stretching BEFORE your work out.
However, static stretching combined with SMR/foam rolling AFTER exercise has been found to be more effective than either modality alone... especially when it comes to muscle recovery and DOMS.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO DO IT?
So now that we know we SHOULD do it, the question is more or less HOW we should do it.
In my experience, there is no cookie cutter program or set length of time you should be doing SMR. There are a plethora of different products out there (smooth foam rollers, grid rollers, cork rollers, hard rollers, vibrating rollers... yes, even vibrating ones) so it can be a bit confusing which is the right one for you.
There is some evidence to suggest that the grid foam rollers may improve joint range more than smooth ones, but the actual difference between the two was approximately 3 degrees so choose whichever one you like better. Now all of these improvements were only short term (approximately 30-45 mins) so it's important we find a way to keep the benefits long term.
In my opinion the best way to do SMR is to find an area that is sore/you want to release and provide an uncomfortable (but not painful) pressure. You can then either hold the pressure, roll around this area, or do some active release techniques. Once you've done this don't just run off home... add a few more active movements and use that extra range.
E.g. if you've rolled out your calves, add a few calf raises on a step to really get that stretch and squeeze of the muscle.
If you've rolled out your glutes, a few deep squats or cossack squats straight after. Hamstrings just released? Do some body weight Jefferson curls.
If you do this rather than just releasing only, you can maintain the benefits of increasing joint ROM much longer.
Remember... if you don't use it, you lose it.
For more information about how to get the most out of your foam rolling and workouts book an appointment today.