To foam roll, or not to foam roll…?
Complete transparency, I really love to roll out my tissue and find that I experience great results from doing so regularly to keep me running. That said, I want to provide an objective perspective and let you decide how to incorporate this tool into your training.
Let’s start with the facts, here is what the research tells us.
Foam rolling alone does not improve range of motion.
Foam rolling can improve performance test measures in athletes.
Foam rolling can decrease muscular soreness.
That’s all we know so far, up until a few years ago, we were advising athletes to foam roll with no validated evidence to support such a recommendation. We now have better research to mildly support its relevance. BUT, research evidence is not everything! My opinion, read if you like, or skip to below. No one has ever denied feeling a change in something after foam rolling. The unanswered question is, “what is the mechanism in which foam rolling is making a change in our bodies?” I argue that the foam roller makes changes through stimulating the nervous system, but I will leave this up to the research gurus and keep plugging away in the clinic.
Foam rolling is safe, inexpensive, and helpful when done correctly. I suggest incorporating stretching into your foam rolling sessions as a pre and post test to improve desired results. As with most training stimulus, frequency is more important than duration, which is to say 5-10 minutes daily will provide significantly better results than 1 hour weekly. In general, begin by identifying the most tender spots in the area you are rolling, then hold on the most tender spot until the intensity drops by 50-75% (minimum 1-2mins) and then move on to the next most tender location. Repeat 2-3 times and then move to the next area.
Start by positioning yourself on the roller between your hip bone and pelvis ridge. Roll your body slightly forward and you won’t be able to miss finding the small TFL muscle. This is the muscle attached to your IT Band. You must roll this before working your way down past the hip and along your IT Band.
Begin by sitting directly on the sit bone on the side you intend to roll, as illustrated in the picture. Once in position, roll your body off the sit bone into the valley of tender tissue. Work along this tissue up in the direction towards your back. Positioning yourself correctly as in the picture is key in being able to access the deep glutes.