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Fitness & Health

02nd Sep 2019

Foam rolling after training doesn’t relieve soreness or aid muscle recovery

Foam rolling could well be a waste of time, according to a series of recent studies. It is better used as a warm up tool, mainly for sprinters

Alex Roberts

Your favourite recovery tool might not be as effective as you think

Foam rolling could well be a waste of time, according to a series of recent studies.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked to test the effects of foam rolling on post-workout soreness and muscle recovery.

Scientists had a group of men perform 40 rounds of 15-metre sprints, with the aim of stressing the muscles you use to perform such an exercise.

18 members of the group were asked to foam roll before each session, while 19 went without. Immediately after training and in the four days following, all men were tested on the following measures:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Hip range of motion (ROM)
  • Hamstring muscle length
  • Vertical jump
  • Agility

Muscle soreness, hip ROM, hamstring muscle length, and vertical jump were not significantly better in people who underwent foam rolling. Agility was the only marker where there was much of a difference.

Most people use foam rolling as a means of fending off soreness and boosting muscle recovery after hitting the weights room. If that’s you, you’re not losing out if you ditch the roller.

Sprinters are the only athletes who appear to benefit from using them. Scientists behind this study say: “Foam rolling may be useful for athletes requiring adequate agility who need to recover quickly from demanding bouts of exercise.”

Earlier this year, a much larger study found something similar.

This one was a review of all major studies relating to foam rolling. 21 studies in total were examined. Overall, there was a small improvement in sprinting, but little benefit on strength training performance.

Scientists concluded that, “the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery are rather minor and partly negligible, but can be relevant in some cases.”

It was also agreed that rolling is best as a warm-up, and not a recovery tool.

Bodybuilding coach Menno Henselmans believes “most people don’t need to bother with foam rolling before or after every workout.”

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