The fitness industry is divided on numerous issues. As a result, we often “pick teams” and usually stick with them (very stoutly, I might add). There are plenty of arguments to support both sides of several divisive issues, but in this post, I’m going to focus on one: foam rolling.
Most athletes and many coaches from all over the world swear by this practice, but there’s very little evidence to support that it actually works. Even the terminology is a divisive issue, as people can’t seem to agree on how to explain the benefits.
The biggest complaints I hear have to do with its technical name: self-myofascial release. Foam rolling technically doesn’t “release” fascia and connective tissues in the body because fascia is too strong to be manipulated. You’re not really doing anything productive; it’s simply a placebo.
I’m not here to fight with anyone about what foam rolling actually does to the body. Strength and Conditioning Research already does a great job of explaining the issue of calling this exercise “self-myofascial release” and digs a lot deeper into its counterarguments, so I’ll just leave the link here for your reference.
The good news for foam rolling advocates is that not all the science opposes it. From my research, I found the following six studies that do provide a solid argument to support it:
2) Foam rolling has been linked to reduced arterial stiffness and improved vascular function throughout the body. So if you’re looking to flush your muscles with strong blood flow, this practice can help. Think active recovery.
3) It’s also been proven to increase range of motion (ROM) in the knees by 10 degrees without affecting muscle performance. A negative correlation to force without foam rolling has also been found in this study.
4) There are studies that suggest foam rolling has no effect on performance, but this one studied it against a plank series before exercising. The study found a reduced feeling of fatigue that could extend training sessions, suggesting that foam rolling is more efficient for training.
5) There’s always someone to play Devil’s Advocate, in this case to show research verifying “performance enhancements”: improvements in vertical jumps and relief of muscle soreness with 20 minutes of foam rolling post-exercise.
6) And now for the proverbial “nail in the coffin”: by adding another twenty minutes post-exercise, foam rolling shows positive effects on the 30m sprint test, more power in broad jumps, an increase in dynamic strength endurance, and improved muscle tenderness compared to exercising without foam rolling.
Overall, just like anything else you do, it all depends on what you want to accomplish. Some will see its benefits, others will see it as a waste of time. Hopefully these studies will give you a little more insight and allow you to make your own decision about foam rolling!
Have you ever tried foam rolling? Has it improved your training in any way? Share your experience in the comments below, or contact me to learn how I incorporate foam rolling into my workouts for women and online personal training! And if you have friends who practice foam rolling, be sure to share this article with them!
Jay Kali AKA, The Strength Architect is the founder of Kali Coaching. He holds certifications as a Specialist in Strength and Conditioning, Certified Fitness Trainer, Online Trainers Academy Graduate, Training For Warriors Level 2 Graduate and is a 300-Certified Yoga Teacher in Power Yoga. He is also an Amazon Bestselling Author in four different categories and has made it his mission to help women create long lasting, healthy lifestyles in just 8 weeks!