It was not too long ago, all the hype made it seem like the holy grail to your success with your workouts was to use a Foam Roller religiously. Now many Fitness Professionals claim that Foam Rolling is made out to be a waste of time when looking to improve your training sessions and quality of muscle health. What's going on here? Just like what happens to so many topics in the Fitness Industry, sides get taken and we end up with extremes. Seems like a line has been drawn in the sand once again...
What is my take on this topic, and what do we do?
First, Foam Rollers are intended to help you "massage" your soft tissue (muscles and fascia) on your own. Whether you are stiff, sore, or suffering from a muscle strain, a Foam Roller is a possible tool to help your problem. Research is still very limited on Foam Rolling since it's a relatively new tool, but in the research that we do have, it shows to have some good short term benefits. And this is where my philosophy lies with using them.
I do not believe that Foam Rolling is the key to fixing all of your muscle issues. But what I do believe is that it can make an impact to help you feel better in a short term time frame. These attempts to create short term progress over an extended time, can potentially add to for long term progress of keeping your muscles healthy and pliable.
I also believe that if you are experiencing some acute muscle shortening in certain areas, foam rolling can help work these issues out before they get out of hand and you get yourself into deep water. For example, if you're running a lot, your I.T. Band (long muscle on the side of your leg) may start tightening up. Before it gets too debilitating, you could use a foam roller to help reduce this tightness and discomfort. We have many case studies here at our facility of using a Foam Roller and other self massage tools (like a PVC Pipe and Lacrosse Ball) to help clean up some of these small issues, before they become larger issues and need to be outsourced for more aggressive measures!
Where I think a Foam Roller really shines is before your warm up. Because Foam Rolling seem to have short term effects, performing 5-10 minutes of Foam Rolling prior to your warm up can potential help you "feel better" before you even start to train (the psychological benefit could be just enough to enhance your workouts). Whether you're still a little sore from previous training, stiff from driving in your car, or dealing with some tight areas on your body, I 100% believe that Foam Rolling can help reduce some of these symptoms to allow you to feel better and receive a higher quality of workout.
So what do we do at JYT with our Foam Rollers? Basically what I have already outlined above. We program in a couple different mandatory Foam Rolling movements for our clients to perform before each session. We have them roll out their back 30-60 seconds, their glutes 30-60 seconds each side, and their quads for 30-60 seconds before every workout. If they have any other tight or tender areas, they can roll those areas out as well. After this series, we then begin our active dynamic warm up.
We don't live and die by Foam Rolling, but when you have a few of them on hand, the reality that they're pretty cheap, and it only takes a couple of minutes to potentially just feel better before you start your workout, to me it's a no brainer to incorporate into a training program. But before you jump on a Foam Roller, don't expect it to magically heal a serious injury like a herniated disc or a pulled hamstring. Just realize that for only a couple minutes to get some short term benefits for your workout, it may be really worth that time and effort to sneak this in before each workout.
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.