If you are any bit familiar with the health and fitness industry, you have probably heard of the term “foam rolling”.
I felt there there were a lack of posts providing actual scientific evidence as to why we should be foam rolling. So I've whipped this article together for you.
Foam rolling is a cheap and efficient method to assist the body with muscle recovery and range of motion in those who are training regularly.
You can find foam rollers available at most sporting good stores or Amazon. There are many options to choose from but the typical price range is $15-$40. Well worth the cost.
It is common to see a foam roller used in rehabilitation settings. It ultimately helps in promoting proper musculoskeletal function within our body.
In a study focusing on how foam rolling aids in recovery following intense bouts of physical activity, it was concluded that...
“The most important findings of the present study were that FR(foam rolling) was beneficial in attenuating muscle soreness while improving vertical jump height, muscle activation, and passive and dynamic ROM (Range of motion)”.
Let's dive into some specifics of how foam rolling can benefit you...
Range of motion and flexibility within the body is extremely important for injury prevention and to boost overall athletic performance.
Foam rollers are effective in increasing the range of motion. In one study, they observed 40 athletes utilize the foam roller before stretching. The researchers were in support of foam rolling for the hamstrings prior to a static stretching routine to further increase hip flexion range of motion.
In conclusion of the article, it was stated that “Those who foam rolled the hamstrings and then stretched had greater increases in hip flexion than those who only performed the stretching alone.”
Another group of researchers wanted to study the effectiveness of foam rolling as a means of improving hamstring flexibility. The subjects were given a protocol and told to foam roll 3x per week for 4 weeks total. The study quoted “The foam roll can be seen as an effective tool to increase hamstring flexibility within 4 weeks”.
This indicates it may be beneficial to include a foam rolling session in unison with your stretching routines if you wish to improve flexibility or range of motion in a specific joint.
Athletes, average gym go-ers, occasional gym go-ers, all inevitably experience muscle soreness.
What is Delayed-onset of muscle soreness?
Delayed-onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), at a molecular level it's a slight muscle strain that may cause tenderness or stiffness and usually occurs 24 hours to 72 hours post workout (the pain we feel post workout).
Well I’m here to tell you foam rolling can help...
In a study using 8 physically active males, they found that “Foam rolling substantially improved quadriceps muscle tenderness by a moderate to large amount in the days after fatigue”.
Keep in mind those involved foam rolled for 20 minutes right after their workouts, then again at 24 hours and the third time at 72 hours. Also keep in mind the study size was small so further research with larger groups would increase credibility.
In another study using 32 healthy young adults, they had them perform a foam rolling routine following an intense plyometric workout. They discovered a significant improvement in self reported DOMS post exercise.
But overall, this suggests foam rolling may help to speed along recovery after training, which is awesome!
There isn’t a lot of current research on whether or not foam rolling will actually get rid of muscle adhesions, but we can hypothesize based on what we know.
Muscle adhesions may develop due to a buildup of collagen, muscle and connective tissue. They can create muscle stiffness or decreased range of motion.
Our musculature at a cellular level is made up of fibres, small little bundles of tissue that stretch and contract together. With regular use/ training these bundles become almost tangled(adhesions), may lack blood flow sometimes and restrict movements.
By regularly using a foam roller to increase blood flow, and apply directed pressure at problem areas we may be able to loosen up said muscles and aid in restoring normalized muscle function.
BUT, keep in mind, this isn’t scientifically backed just yet. Just a hypothesis.
Typically foam rollers are used pre or post workout or as a part of a mobility/stretching routine. It’s recommended you use the foam roller before stretching and post workout, but with that being said make it work with your schedule.
If you are able to fit it in 2-3x per week as part of your workout routine you will discover the benefits!
Personally, I like to dedicate my foam rolling sessions to the muscles that were trained the same day.
For example, after my leg workout I'll dedicate a quick 5 minute session to the lower extremities only, targeting the calves, glutes, quads and hamstrings. Spending around 30 seconds per muscle group.
Then vice versa for any upper body workouts, I’ll only target the muscles that were exercised that day.
The trick is when you find a “painful spot” to focus on that specific spot for the 30 seconds or so, rolling back and forth.
Here is a tweet where I show you a few of my favorite lower body exercises!
And here are a few YouTube videos with full routines attached:
Here is one on Canada’s Amazon site for $15CDN
Here is another from Amazon around $25CDN
Last one from Walmart! Around $15CDN.
If you aren't from Canada, simply go to your local big box retailer or check your country's Amazon.