the truth about foam rolling

What is foam rolling? You may have heard the word SMR or Self Myofascial Release. Sounds intense, but this is the thought of self-massaging a muscle or area to cause an increase in your range of motion, break down adhesions or "knots", or decrease the amount of pain in an area. While foam rolling does bring a positive result to a few of these things, I’ll tell you a few things foam rolling does NOT do.

Foam rolling does not

  • Break down adhesions

  • Break up knots in your muscles

  • Make permanent changes to your tissue

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there have been no studies to date that have shown that foam rolling causes a change in soft tissue (muscle) or that it will successfully break down knots or adhesions.

One study done by Chaudry H, et al 2008 showed that it takes 400kg-900kg (880lb-1,980lb) of mass to influence the fascia by just 1%, JUST 1%!  That’s a lot of weight that would end up crushing you before you’d affect the tissue.

Now I know what you're thinking, then what's the point? Don’t worry. Foam rolling does do something.

Foam rolling can give you a neurological change response, the type of "feel good" response you get right after you foam roll or get a massage. If you're foam rolling or applying pressure to a certain area, it tells the brain to reduce the tone of a muscle in that certain area, leading to a short decrease in pain (from muscle soreness) and a possible increase in your range of motion for a short time. However, it’s what’s done after you foam roll that will create a longer response. An example of what to do after you foam roll can be this: foam roll your lat. After you foam roll your lat and let's say you’ve increased your range of motion to reach overhead for the time being, what can you do to solidify this range of motion? Well, you can barbell or dumbbell overhead press. By adding weight to the movement you’re telling the brain and body, “It’s ok and safe to load this new range of motion.” So what happens next time? Since you’ve been there before it’ll be much easier to access and gain more range of motion.

I'm not throwing shade at foam rolling, and I feel like it works (neurologically not mechanically) but pay attention to what you’re doing immediately after you foam roll because that’s your window of opportunity to make the most of your mobility and flexibility. 

To learn more about strength, mobility, and flexibility, follow Jason on Instagram: @repthereds

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