Foam Rolling and Stretching Advice
What should I do before physical activity?
Should I stretch or foam roll?
What is the difference?
Some people are unsure of what things should be done as a warm-up, how to cool down correctly, what should be done on recovery days and what to even do at all when it comes to foam rolling or stretching.
Carys Margetts explains what each of these are and advises which is best to do and when…
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage which uses a deep compression element to roll muscular structures. It is used to target areas of muscular tension which could be causing pain, restricted range of movement, restricted flexibility or muscular imbalances. There are different pieces of equipment that can be used for self-massage such as, foam rollers, trigger balls, self-massage stick and more.
If our muscles aren’t taken care of, we experience aches and pains and expose ourselves to more injuries. It has been proven with research and science that using self-massage tools can help with this, giving the body that extra boost needed to achieve optimal tissue health.
The benefits of foam rolling are;
- Help relive muscular tension and adhesions formed
- Improve muscle tensile flexibility
- Reduces scar tissue and trigger points
- Improve range of movement
- Aid muscular and joint circulation creating healthy blood flow
- Soften muscle fibres
- Stimulate muscle tissues ready for activity
It is advised by professionals to spend at least 30-60 seconds around each area but if areas need more attention, the time should be increased.
A study from The Jounal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that foam rolling for just a minute/60 seconds in a focused area improves the range of motion of a joint.
Pre-and post event foam rolling
The benefits of foam rolling can be utilised pre-and post-activity.
Foam rolling before an event or workout will aid your warm up by increasing the blood flow to the muscles and lengthening the muscular fibres creating healthy circulation in preparation to your activity.
Post-activity is just as beneficial as the increased blood flow will encourage nutrients to the muscles which can enhance recovery.
A study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise discovered that rolling after an intense workout can relieve soreness over the following two days.
The benefits of stretching and foam rolling over lap, but the main focus of stretching is to elongate the muscles to help improve range of movement. An increase in range of movement leads to increased flexibility, which in theory will reduce the risk of potential injuries. Training with full range of movement and good flexibility means your body has better quality during movement patterns.
There are two different types of stretching; dynamic and static, this can be confusing to some.
A dynamic stretch, involves stretching with movement and will take a joint through a range of mobility. Whereas static stretching, is stationary and involves holding a position to feel a stretch. Both types provide different benefits.
Pre workout stretching
Dynamic stretching is highly recommended before activity as it will increase the body temperature, heart rate and gradually prepares the body for the workout, therefore preparing the muscles more effectively. Sometimes they can also mimic sports specific movements involved in the activity you are preparing for.
Dynamic stretches create a brain-body connection and fire the nervous system ready for your workout.
Isolated specific static stretches are ideal to help elongate muscles but should be done in conjunction with dynamic stretches, creating a more effective preparation for your activity
The ideal times for stretching before a workout should be around 10 minutes, but this is always dependant on the activity you are preparing for.
Post Activity Stretching
This is when static stretching is more beneficial. The body is warm, circulation is good and muscles have been through a full workout. Muscles will build muscular tension, adhesions and lactic acid during training so post-training, this shouldn’t be ignored. Ideally you should focus on the muscle groups that have just been targeted during the workout but if your unsure then focus on all the major muscles groups.
Suggested timing for post workout static stretching is again, 10 minutes, holding stretches between 20 and 30 seconds.
So, Foam Rolling vs Stretching…
Both foam rolling and stretching are beneficial as active individuals whatever your sport, combining all of them together creates the perfect scenario.
Foam rolling pre-and post-activity.
Dynamic stretching before a workout and static stretching after activity.
Adding these into your fitness routine, will make a huge difference to your performance and make a noticeable difference to your muscles mobility.
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