Any decent gym will be littered with foam rollers and individuals wincing in pain in the warm up area. It is not unusual to have a love-hate relationship with foam rollers. Many can testify that despite feeling great afterwards, foam rolling can resemble a torture device. So why should you put yourself through this pain? Is foam rolling actually necessary and what are the benefits, if any?
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling (or Myofascial Release) is a commonly used method for recovery in physical therapy and is included in all of our bespoke weight loss guides. When we exercise, our fascia (the connective network which surrounds our muscles and provides support, stability and has a role in dynamic flexibility) tightens. As a protective measure, it becomes dense and less elastic which contributes to the muscle soreness that we all experience after a great session. The effect of exercise on the fascia, if unrecovered, results in an increased risk of injury and a lower functional capacity. Recovery of its function is therefore essential for your health, progression and fitness journey.
What does the science say?
Literature is very clear on the short term benefits of foam rolling. Research has shown that foam rolling is an effective method of myofascial release and results in: reduced muscle soreness, greater power output recovery and increased range of motion. Therefore it can be said that the use of foam rollers is a promising tool for reducing muscle soreness and in aiding recovery. Why pay good money to go for a massage when you could just foam roll for free?
The exact mechanisms of foam rolling and why it is effective is yet to be determined and scientific research is still ongoing. It has been suggested that it could be due to muscle warming, increased blood flow or due to the neurological response of putting specific pressure onto your muscles. Added to this, the long term effects of foam rolling have not yet been outlined.
What do we recommend?
Despite this, foam rolling clearly has its benefits and is a practice most should perform. There are thousands of tutorials online and we suggest foam rolling before you workout. Aim to hold the roller on a tight spot for around 10-30 seconds (or however many you can endure). You can also perform it as part of your cool down but it is not necessary, it’s just an added extra! Its purely down to personal preference, give it a try and then decide whether you want to make it part of your routine!
On top of foam rolling, we’ve detailed some essential practices for optimal rest and recovery. Check it out!