Foam Rolling: Is it Effective?
In the fitness industry there are many different theories and methods of post exercise recovery. A few of these methods include static stretching, active recovery, and self-myofascial release (foam rolling, and roller massage). Today I will be focusing on the method of Self Myofascial release (SMR), how it works, is it effective, and is it worth trying? Throughout the years foam rolling and SMR techniques have been amongst the most popular recovery methods for athletes and gym goers worldwide.
Let's start by briefly learning how SMR works in the body. During exercise we load the muscle with weight or some form of resistance which creates tiny tears in the muscle. These micro tears in our muscle can lead to soreness and stiffness often referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). When we use a foam roller, we can break up these tiny scar-like tissues allowing rich blood to reach these damaged areas and promote healing. When our muscles are allowed to properly heal, we see an increase in Range of Motion (ROM) and a mitigation of DOMS. The improvement of ROM is especially important from an injury prevention point of view. When we improve ROM we decrease the likelihood of muscle and tendon strains, sprains, and tears which is important for anybody exercising for longevity and health.
In the grand scheme of exercise therapy and rehab modalities, foam rolling and roller massage are very new and there is still much more research to be done on them. In general foam rolling heavily resembles massage therapy and the majority of benefits of massage have been inferred to be benefits of foam rolling and roller massage. Where foam rolling and self-massage techniques really shine is the accessibility and convenience of their use, especially in the times we are living in now. Foam rollers and roller massagers are relatively cheap and can be used anytime and anywhere. They also take out the need for a massage professional and other personnel that would be needed for an in-person massage session.
What we have learned is that foam rolling and roller massage have been shown to be an effective recovery method for athletes and gymgoers alike meaning that yes, you should start foam rolling! The next question is when should you foam roll? You can foam roll anytime you feel like it! Some studies have shown that foam rolling directly after exercise can be the most effective in aiding recovery and improving ROM, however foam rolling is still effective even up and through 48 hours. To properly foam roll place the targeted muscle group on the foam roller and apply pressure using the force of gravity and rolling the foam roller over the targeted muscle. The duration of each session is ultimately up to the individual, you can start with 3 1-minute intervals of foam rolling and gradually increase from there or just go until you feel like you have done enough!
Foam Rolling and roller massage are both effective, quick, easy, and affordable methods of recovery and can be preformed by a wide variety of physically active people. They have both been shown to increase range of motion in targeted muscle groups and even reduce muscle soreness following a bout of strenuous exercise. If you have yet to try either foam rolling or roller massage you should give it a shot!