Benefits of: Foam Rolling

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Foam rolling has become an increasingly popular intervention used by runners, cyclists, weight lifters, and athletes alike. When it comes to foam rolling, there are many questions that beginners may have, including: “Is it better to roll before or after exercise?”, “If I foam roll, do I need to stretch?”, and “How long should I be rolling for?” With endless amounts of fitness blogs, magazines, and websites, it can be hard to sift through the plethora of information. Luckily, I have the resources (from school, woohoo!) to look into the research and literature on the topic so I can synthesize it for you.

Let’s start with the basics: Foam rolling is a lay-term for self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR is used primarily to increase the extensibility of the muscle fascia aimed towards muscle recovery. It has also been recently linked to increased performance when used as a pre-exercise technique (1). There is very little research on the effects of different durations of SMR on muscle recovery, flexibility, and performance. However, recent studies have looked into the effects of using foam rolling as both a pre-exercise and post-exercise intervention.

A study by Skarabot et al. showed significant effects of foam rolling the calf muscles on ankle dorsiflexion range of motion (i.e. ankle flexibility) only when including static stretching directly after foam rolling. The subjects foam rolled 3 sets of 30 seconds with 10 second rest breaks in-between and used the same protocol for static stretching (2).

Junker and Stoggl conducted a randomized clinical trial with 47 participants foam rolling 3 times a week for 4 weeks (3 sets of 20-30 seconds on each leg) and concluded foam rolling of the hamstrings improved hamstring flexibility significantly compared to the control group (3).

A literary review of nine randomized clinical trials concluded SMR can decrease soreness following delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), increase muscle flexibility, and can be beneficial before and after exercise (4).

My advice to you? If you are having trouble getting adequately warmed up for a workout or recovering quickly before your next workout, consider foam rolling. If you are already foam rolling and not seeing the benefits, try playing around with duration and frequency. You may start foam rolling maybe 10 times on each muscle before and/or after a workout and then work up from there. You can start with a simple foam roller and gradually increase to a more dense or textured foam roller. Either way, warm up and recovery are both MAJOR components of fitness that are easy to rush through or skip entirely.

  1. Peacock, C.A., Krein, D.D., Silver, T.A., Sanders, G.J., Von Carlowitz, K.A. An acute bout of self-myofascial release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. International Journal of Exercise Science 2014; 7(3): 202-211.
  2. Skarabot, J., Beardsley, C., Stirn, I. Comparing the effects of self-myofascial release with static stretching on ankle range-of-motion in adolescent athletes. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 2015; 10(2): 203-212.
  3. Junker, H.J. and Stoggl, T.L. The foam roll as a tool to improve hamstring flexibility. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2015; 29(12): 3480-3485.
  4. Schroeder, A.N. and Best, T.M. Is self myofascial release an effective preexercise and recovery strategy? A literature review. Training, Prevention, and Rehabilitation 2014; 14(3): 200-208.

Photo from: https://rocktape.com

Opinion: Lifting While Pregnant

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Many of you have probably seen the outrageous backlash against pregnant women weightlifting while scrolling through your social media feeds. Women like Emily Breeze, Lea-Ann Ellison (pictured above), and Meghan Leatherman have become victims of online bullying because of this. Although I am not pregnant and do not plan on becoming pregnant anytime soon, I live a healthy lifestyle and would like to think that if and when I decide to have children, I will still be lifting weights. And this is where I’d like to clear the air a little bit.

According to J.M. Pivarnick and L. Mudd (2009), lifting weights during pregnancy does not affect the child in any way as long as the mother was lifting weights regularly before becoming pregnant. It is not safe to start lifting heavy weights during your pregnancy if you were not doing so beforehand. The same goes for running and other types of exercise programs.

However, there are some things to take into consideration. Being pregnant can throw off a woman’s center of mass, which may make some lifts and movements more difficult and they may need to be modified in certain ways. Pregnant women also need to make sure to drink plenty of water during workouts and eat sufficiently afterwards, as working out diminishes energy stores and can increase dehydration more quickly in pregnant women.

My opinion is if you are pregnant and you want to continue your lifting regimen, do it! But you’ll need to stay on top of your health and your baby’s health by communicating with your doctor. Listen to your body… It will let you know when enough is enough! Stay hydrated and eat well. Keep doing you, baby!

 

  1. Artal, R. and O’Toole, M. (2003). Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists For Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37: 6-12.
  2. Pivarnick, J.M, Ph.D., and Mudd, L. M.S. (2009). Oh Baby! Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 13(3): 8-13.