I am sure you have heard it before: Stretching after a tough workout will reduce the risk for injury and can lessen muscle soreness. Traditional arm and leg stretches often are the first thing to come to mind, but have you ever considered foam rolling to achieve the same benefits?
Foam rolling is a type of manual therapy that can be performed independently. Proponents have touted that foam rolling improves flexibility, reduces recovery, and may even help athletic performance. While moderate levels of research support the notion that foam rolling increases flexibility and speeds recovery, utilizing foam rolling as a tool to improve athletic performance has little research support. The current knowledge base has promoted foam rolling primarily as a tool to use either before or after a workout.
FLEXIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS: Research supports the fact that foam rolling can increase flexibility in both the short-term and the long-term. Immediate changes in flexibility tend to last up to ten minutes, with longer term flexibility changes reported when foam rolling is routinely performed.
QUICKER RECOVERY: Improvements in recovery have tended to focus on subjective complaints of muscle soreness, often called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Statistics have shown that foam rolling can significantly reduce complaints of muscle soreness after activity. However, the exact reason for the reduction of soreness is unknown.
ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: The lack of research backing improved athletic performance is a key point that is often overlooked by laymen when it comes to appropriate use of foam rolling. The term “kinetic chain” is often utilized by foam rolling enthusiasts, however, carryover into actual changes in mobility and performance has not been found. Although foam rolling techniques often promote “feel good” sensations, the results are minimal for improving athletic performance prior to workout. The bottom line here is long term utilization of foam rolling prior to working out is not indicated.
Foam rolling should continue to play a role in fitness training recovery, however further research is needed to determine its optimal use. If you would like to try foam rolling as a recovery technique, start with 3 sets of 20-30 second repetitions following your workouts. Focus on the large muscles groups that have been working hardest, such as your quads, calves or back. It might be a good way to change up your routine. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us!