The truth about the foam roller craze.
The foam roller is gaining popularity among fitness enthusiast, and for good reason. It’s positive benefits can be seen if used correctly and at the right times. However, it’s often times promoted as the be all and end all for pre and post workout routines, which just isn’t the case. While the foam roller can definitely bring some added arsenal to your recovery, it has it’s limits, and we expose those limits, down below. These are the 5 facts and fictions about the foam roller.
Fact: Foam rolling helps with Tightness
The foam roller works due to neurological tone reduction. When you add external pressure through muscle tissue, receptors in the peripheral and central nervous systems are stimulated which take the tension off of stiff and tight tissues.
Fiction: Foam rolling plays a major role in performance.
While some people have reported better performance after foam rolling, the truth is foam rolling as a stand alone exercise does little in the form of functional movement. This means flexibility, mobility, strength, and endurance probably won’t be impacted significantly by just doing foam rolling exercises. Foam rolling primarily aids in recovery.
Fact: Foam rolling is best post workout
As mentioned before, foam rolling is utilized best post workout as a method for fast recovery. After a hard workout there’s likely to be inflammation, muscle soreness, and increase in muscle tone for most athletes. An extended session with the foam roller helps clear out inflammation, lymphatic pooling, as well as tapping into the neural recovery system by reducing local tone of tissue.
Fiction: Foam rolling will break down scar tissue
This just isn’t true. Soft tissue in humans is not in actuality “soft.” There are multiple layers of dermal tissues covering the soft tissues that are being manipulated, and for most people, a fair amount of fatty adipose layers as well. The three main layers of skin are pretty thick if you’ve ever seen a dissected dead body or just watched a couple of episodes of CSI. These layers are also full of mechano- and sensory receptors as well. Foam rolling will not make any significant changes in scar tissue.
Fact: Foam rolling can increase blood flow
Increased circulation is huge for recovery, and faster recovery means more lifting days. Rolling helps drive blood into local areas, which allows nutrient exchange and waste to be cleared out.
To be fair, you can use the foam roller however you like. If you feel it helps you before a workout…go ahead. If you think your scar tissue is going away and you’re more mobile and stronger than ever, be my guest. The placebo effect is a very real thing. But if you don’t like to waste time, and want the most precise way to use your roller, let the fact and fiction be your guide.