To Roll Or Not To Roll

What are the benefits of foam rolling?

Foam rolling has recently increased in popularity within the athletic community, used as a method to aid in recovery as well as in preparation for a training session. It’s an inexpensive alternative to sports massage and can be used to sort out small niggles before they become big problems. But have you ever wondered what foam rolling actually does? How does it actually benefit your performance?

Reduction of DOMS

It is believed that foam rolling after a training session can help to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) experienced in the following days. Foam rolling helps to relieve one possible cause of DOMS, the inflammation and tightness in the connective tissue of the muscle. Massage by a foam roller can potentially promote improved blood flow to these areas as well as reduce tightness, thus attenuating potential pain. Indeed multiple studies have found that when compared to a control group, foam rolling reduced muscle pain and tenderness, with the benefits continuing as participants continued to foam roll daily for up to 48 hours post-exercise.

To help reduce any DOMS you may feel from your exercise session, aim to roll out the main muscle groups you used. If you can, continue to roll out each day following your session to continue to feel the benefits!

Effects on performance? Debateable!

It’s also believed that foam rolling before an exercise session can help to improve performance. When performed before a training session, foam rolling does not provide any benefit over other similar exercise preparation methods for athletic performance. However, when performed after a training session as a method of recovery, the results are both positive and negative. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why this may be the case, but as foam rolling has been found to reduce the severity of DOMS the lower muscle pain levels may allow athletes to achieve greater performance.

Another argument for the benefit of foam rolling on performance may actually stem from your ability to perform more sessions in a training week. As you experience less muscle pain and fatigue, you are more likely to attend the gym for another session, get another workout in, and therefore improve your performance.

There isn’t a single argument for or against foam rolling to benefit performance. Its effect will depend on whether it is performed before or after a training session, having both short and long-term effects.

To foam roll, or to not foam roll: that is the question…

In summary, the benefits of foam rolling are clear. Foam rolling can be used as a method to improve your recovery and ensure you are able to perform at your best in your next training session. However, it does not appear to be superior to any other method when used as a warm-up and mobility technique. If you don’t already, try it out after your next training session and see if you can feel the benefits!

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