Foam rolling, we see it happening more and more in the gym. Athletes who foam roll to relieve some stiffness or use it as part of their warm up. But how effective is foam rolling really?
Does it really benefit or is it a waste of time?
We're going to go over the following points together:
- The use of a foam roller can provide less stiffness but it does not loosen anything. There are certain sensors in muscle tissue that are activated by pressure and thus create relaxation in the central nervous system.
- Foam rolling will not make you stronger, more limber or less likely to get injured.
- In addition to using a foam roller, it is also wise to use other recovery methods.
Foam rolling and stiffness
Foam rolling definitely makes you feel like something is happening. It can hurt in a pleasant way or even feel good. Foam rolling can be useful to reduce stiffness from training. The mechanism behind foam rolling works as follows:
By putting pressure on muscle fibers, you activate certain receptors (mechano-receptors). The same goes for massage. Massage gives an activation of muscle fibers so that stiffness decreases and mobility increases. This stiffness is also called a neural lock in the literature. Neural thus stands for the nervous system. So there is nothing literally stuck in the body as we always thought but the muscle tissue is stiff. By activating muscle fibers and especially the mechano-receptors as mentioned before, the mobility often increases quickly. This is always temporary. Another confirmation that we cannot literally loosen or lengthen anything. Otherwise we would not have such a rapid increase in mobility, often within a few minutes foam rolling you move much easier.
Foam rolling and flexibility, strength and injury prevention
Foam rolling by itself has few benefits. If you do not use other important things, only the foam roller has little added value. By this I mean that if you want to become more flexible, it is probably much more useful to start moving in the angles and positions that you want to become more flexible in. If you want to be able to squat deeper, you should focus on a good squat position. squat technique. If you experience a lot of stiffness in your low back, make sure you demand mobility from your spine on a daily basis. Another thing is that you obviously do not get stronger from foam rolling. If you want to gain strength, train it! Nor is it true that you are less likely to get injured with foam rolling. Foam roll all you want but if your sleep, recovery time and training program are not in order, forget it!
Foam rolling is best combined with other recovery strategies
If you do want to foam roll, it is wise to combine this with other recovery strategies, such as hiking and cycling. Foam rolling alone has too little benefit for recovery between workouts. If you really experience too many limitations such as a lot of small pains and stiffness, combine foam rolling with walking or cycling. With a recovery training The goal is to move as much as possible without putting extra strain on muscle tissue. What you do exactly does not really matter that much. Make sure that you are moving well. In addition, it may be useful to give your body a little longer rest between workouts. If you notice that you are not performing as well as you should during a few training sessions, skip a day. If you are a powerlifter and only do your support exercises (triceps, trapezius, etc) or if you are a bodybuilder and only do your arms, calves and abs, this is the ideal day to skip. You can probably catch up on this session the following week if you take a break. But believe me, your performance will not suffer if you just skip this one day. There is still too much fear about not training. Several studies show that literally nothing happens to muscle mass and muscle strength when you take a week off. Of course, this shouldn't become too many weeks in a year but you know what I mean.
Personally, I'm not for or against foam rolling, but I do hate it when it gets so magnified that people forget to actually train. Moving a 300-gram foam roller doesn't really count as a workout. Also, too much energy is often wasted on foam rolling that it seriously impacts your first exercise! So if you like to do it, do it after your workout or on a separate day and combine it with walking, running, or another light workout.