You’ve seen it. That person in the corner of the gym with a foam roller busting out some rather creative positions.
The popularity has grown, and we have dabbled with the art of foam rolling and find it quite pleasing, albeit painful at times.
But what is the evidence exactly on foam rolling?
Does it have any benefit?
The goal of SMR and foam rolling is to put pressure on your muscle and fascia, which is the connective tissue that permeates the muscle.
Doing so might release deformities in the fascia or muscle fibers, release supposed trigger points, and improve blood flow.
At least, that’s one belief. There have been many kinds of research that I’ve tried to understand the actual benefits of it.
One study found that combining foam rolling with static stretching improved hip range of motion twice as much as just stretching alone.
Fascinatingly, rolling the bottom of the foot with a tennis ball ended up improving hamstring flexibility.
Even more astounding was that foam rolling one leg actually benefited ankle mobility of the opposite leg!
Unfortunately, as much as it doesn’t hurt performance, foam rolling doesn’t really help it neither, at least when it comes to foam rolling before exercise.
What it did find, however, was that it might indirectly aid in performance by improving recovery and soreness.
Some pointers, a foam rolling session should last at least 10 to 20 minutes after workout.
It’s also best to foam roll at least 10 minutes before exercise to reap acute mobility benefits.
Make sure to target each muscle at least once for 10 to 20 seconds.
The pressure applied should be moderately forceful, invoking tolerable pain.
A medium density foam roller will work for the majority of people to hit larger muscles groups like your hamstrings, glutes, and back.
Some people might benefit from denser foam rollers if it’s too difficult to apply enough pressure with softer ones.
For smaller muscle groups, using a dense ball like a lacrosse ball can be helpful.
But there we have it.
The research is in, and so far, foam rolling, or self-myofascial release in general, can be quite a game changer in the fitness world.
So why not treat yourself to a nice… clean self-massage so you can treat yourself to some more of that sweet ol gains!