Foam Rollers – Are They Any Good For Your Body? | Stephen Coleclough
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Foam Rollers – Are They Any Good For Your Body?

Foam Rollers – Are They Any Good For Your Body?

Including foam rolling in your workout regimen may reduce the risk of over-stretching muscles and boost exercise performance as a result.

Foam rollers were once exclusively used in professional athletic circles.

But today, it’s actually pretty much impossible to walk into a gym and not come across a foam roller or two.

The rising popularity of foam rollers can be attributed to Israeli engineer Moshe Feldenkrais whose revolutionary work in the 1950s on specific body movements to improve muscle function received a lot of praise and positive feedback.

A Judo black belt himself, Feldenkrais integrated foam rolling routines within his physical improvement system when he stumbled upon them on a visit to the US a few decades later.

The Rise of the Foam Roller

More recently, however, American sports therapist Michael Clark helped introduce the foam roller to the general population with a book he wrote in 2001: Integrated Training for the New Millennium – and as a result, the first foam roller US patent was filed in 2004.

If you’ve never used a foam roller before, the practice involves applying bodyweight on a foam cylinder with focus on specific muscle groups such as, say, the hamstrings, thighs or glutes – and using small undulating and repetitive movements to exert pressure on the target muscle.

This actually helps stretch and loosen up the fascia of the muscle, better priming it for optimal performance.

A quick search on YouTube will unleash over half a million videos on the term “foam rolling” or “foam roller”.

Despite the 40 million search engine hits and a handful of scientific evidence to back up its benefits, foam rolling is still a concept that many gyms and gym-goers have been reluctant to embrace.

Does it really work then?

What’s the Big Deal about Foam Rolling Anyway?

Majority of people who are physically active or exercise on a regular basis understand the importance of stretching before working out – it loosens up the body and gets it ready for the intense physical bout that’s about to ensue.

However, too much stretching – i.e. 60 seconds or more at a time for any specific muscle group – may overstretch it somewhat and actually make it less efficient at generating force or power.

Now, this is where foam rolling’s big selling point comes into the spotlight: it can improve flexibility in a way similar to traditional stretching, but without impairing force generation, speed, power or strength – key attributes that allow you to carry out specific movements efficiently and without the risk of injury.

But that’s not all – foam rolling has the potential to improve athletic performance if combined with light stretching.

With that said, current scientific evidence on foam rolling is inconclusive at best.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing any foam rolling at all.

After all, it has shown plenty of promise in not just improving pre-workout flexibility but also post-workout recovering by reducing soreness.

Curbing muscle soreness can definitely help you perform better in your next workout, so by all means foam roll before and after your workout for better stretch reflex and a recovery boost.

Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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