Foam or ball rolling is used by many people at the gym. The general foam roller is typically used on larger areas of the body, such as the back and quads, while a ball is used to dig in to smaller areas, such as shoulders and glutes. If you search online, you will find many articles with the same information around the effectiveness. Most articles simply say that there isn’t enough evidence either way that foam rolling is effective.
There are many discussions around the effectiveness of rolling out knots or tightness in the body before exercise. All national personal training certification bodies including the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) incorporate self myofascial release (SMR) into their curriculum for personal trainers.
What Science Has Proven
NCSF teaches the importance of rolling in conjunction with flexibility. The reason for the inclusion of SMR with flexibility is simple. If someone cannot complete an exercise with full range of motion (ROM), there is an impingement, or something preventing the full joint motion. For example, when a person sits all day at a computer for hours at a time, they typically experience hip tightness and a syndrome known as upper crossed. Asking this person to perform an exercise such as a seated row or lat pulldown can be tough because the body has become accustomed to working in the sagittal plane anteriorly, not posteriorly. How do you fix it?
NASM provides a course on Corrective Exercise where they teach the concepts of locating an issue requiring attention, such as imbalances; isolating the issue and then improving the connected joint through rolling and stretching.
Loosening shoulder and lat tightness
Foam Rolling Doesn’t Work
The post that triggered this article was actually an Instagram post from Jonas Hereora where he claims many things foam rolling does not do many things, such as break up adhesions or release trigger points.
Jonas’ post doesn’t really have data to back any of his points and many people have added comments asking about the purpose of the post. Having read the post a few times, it simply says foam rolling doesn’t show benefits for athletes or aid in plyometric movements. No where in the post are there references supporting this. At the end of the post, he states:
🎉This literature guides us to believe that it may have benefit in some cases to use foam rolling, but it is likely minimal and we are unclear as to what the mechanism for this is. .⠀
🙌If you enjoy foam rolling, and you have time to do it, keep it up. In contrast, if you don’t enjoy it, or don’t have time for it, don’t worry about it and move on from it.⠀
What is someone who is new to exercise, sports, or functional movement suppose to take away from this post?
Foam Rolling in Sports
If you’ve ever watched an MLB or NBA game, you will see the use of foam rollers and trigger point technology. Foam rollers are used on the field in warm ups for baseball and basketball players.
To Roll or Not to Roll
The concept of rolling if you enjoy and can make time for it then do it, otherwise don’t worry about it, simply doesn’t make sense.
While there might not be many published articles around the effectiveness of rolling, physiotherapists, chiropractors, strength conditioning coaches, and several other occupations focused on helping people move safely keep rollers in their arsenal. So why wouldn’t you?
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