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What is “Foam Rolling”?
Foam Rolling is a method of self-myofascial release, that uses a cylindrical tube of compressed foam, known as “foam roller”.
Foam Rolling is a form of self-massage that allows you to apply deep pressure and is often performed in order to increase flexibility, reduce muscle soreness (a.k.a. DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), and get rid of muscle knots.
But is this really true?
Let’s find out!
Does Foam Rolling really work?
In the last few years the foam roller has began to be consistently used in almost every gym.
But does it really work? Or even better, what are its pros & cons?
•Effects of Foam Rolling on Flexibility
The effect of foam rolling on flexibility has been evaluated by several studies: these have concluded that foam rolling before working out increases the ROM (Range of Motion) of the joint crossed by the muscle foam rolled, but in the short term only. This means that once you have foam rolled, you will very likely experience a greater ROM, but this effect will not last.
It appears that this specific effect of foam rolling on ROM can be enhanced when associated with stretching.
•Effects of Foam Rolling on DOMS
Studies suggest that foam rolling has beneficial effects on recovery after exercise, effectively reducing DOMS.
Foam Rolling, in fact, seems to promote blood flow, which in turn decreases pain and inflammation, thus having a positive effect on soreness and fatigue post-exercise.
•Effects of Foam Rolling on Athletic Performance
The effect of Foam Rolling on athletic performance has been explored by multiple studies: despite the current absence of consensus and the need of further analysis, foam rolling does NOT appear to have a negative effect on performance.
So, we saw how foam rolling can benefit you, but how does it actually work?
Keep reading to find out!
How does Foam Rolling work?
Currently, there is no definitive answer to this question.
On the other hand, though, there are a few very plausible theories.
The pressure applied through Foam rolling might help move and relax the fascia, thus making it more flexible.
At the same time, foam rolling might contribute to warm up both the fascia and the targeted muscles before exercising, thus helping your body getting ready to workout.
In addition, foam rolling can help you reduce post-exercise muscle soreness by promoting blood flow to the trained muscles.
With regards to the “releasing” effect associated with foam rolling, though, it would appear that there are no structural changes happening, but rather neurological ones. This means that the perception of “release” we get when foam rolling is actually more likely due to nerve receptors being stimulated; these, in turn, send signals to the brain that, in the end, commands the muscle to loosen up while also reducing the pain signals coming from that same muscle.
The last point brings up another question…
Why does Foam Rolling hurts?
When you foam roll, you stimulate pain receptors within that muscle: these send signals to your brain, where they are then processed and translated as “pain”.
Foam rolling, though, should NOT be unbearable at all. At most, it should feel like a “good” kind of pain.
In other words, it doesn’t mean that because Foam rolling is hurting, then it must be working.
Now that you know all of this, let’s see how to correctly foam roll.
How to Foam Roll the right way!
Just like stretching, in order to best rip the benefits of foam rolling, you should do it with regularity.
It’s important that you always foam roll the muscles only, NOT your ligaments, tendons (like the IT band!) and joints!
For best results, try to foam roll each muscle for about 30 seconds, before moving onto the next one.
Usually the main targeted muscles are: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, Latissimus Dorsi and Trapezius.
All in all…
As we saw, foam rolling might yield multiple benefits, and can be implemented both before and after workout.
If you use the foam roller pre-exercise, it can help you increase the ROM, although for a short amount of time only.
Instead, when foam rolling is used post-workout, it might help increase blood flow and decrease DOMS.
Regarding the effects of foam rolling on athletic performance, it appears that the use of foam-roller does not negatively affect it: this means you can foam roll without worry!
I hope you enjoyed this article!
This is the link where you can get your own foam roller!
Do you have any questions? Comment below!
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