Now that the World Cup is over with, it’s time for another Spanish Inquisition. Foam rollers are being enhanced with vibration and what appears to be a off-road tire for some military tank. I do think foam rolling is a good tool, but foam rolling at the beginning of workouts just doesn’t make much sense if you stop to think about things in depth. I think people fear some changes because other’s are right and they are wrong. It’s easy to change your mind but it’s harder to change other people’s mind. With some experts having athletes foam rollers first and some like Mike Nelson suggesting not using it as much, who to believe? Well I think we should listen to Mike Nelson. His post was time stamped over two years ago to go the other way and get off the foam roller before training. With a huge amount of experts saying to do it first, and the minority is saying it last? Who should we listen to? I think we should listen to what has worked and what has been refined. My own beliefs on SMF is now more neurological and less structural (adhesions). If I was to republish much of my old blog I would say that 10% of the science errors would be needed to be updated but the practice would be about the same.
On July 21st, 2003 I stated the following from my old Regeneration Lab blog:
Although I am a big advocate of the release techniques, not all areas of the body respond well to this treatment and rolling for the sake of rolling is simply a waste of time.The optimal times to do self-myofascial release techniques are most likely after 4-5 hours after speed/power days and any time during recovery days.
Sorry Mike Nelson but I struck first! So why do I believe that you should do foam rolling later? Here are some counterpoints:
(1)If you need to roll in order to train reexamine your training program- If foam rolling in order to decrease injury or prepare for training is necessary it is likely that program design errors are the problem. Each year I try to refine my own program as no program is perfect, and it’s not easy. So many variables and combinations, training is very hard to monitor and analyze. The most powerful way to keep athletes healthy is structural balance and managing training load. After that tinker away, but abusing the laws of training you can get into trouble.
(2)Coach Movement, not fascia, activation, or stretching– If you could only warm-up what type of athlete would you produce? Would they have some foundational fitness or would they be able to mimic beached whales, robots, and statues? The funny thing is that most of the experts that bash yoga are ones that have programs that use stretching exercises that are less active than yoga. CNS activation by rolling? Serious people, lying on a bed of nails is not training, realistic and gradual training is far more effective.
(3)Think Integrated not isolated- Much of training is a mixture of biochemistry and biomechanics, not isolated units in a factory. Sorry but this is not an industry this is a profession, and we are professional people working with people, not facilities or universities producing widgets. Profit or performance? Strangely those that are looking at making an increase of profit with training economy are the least efficient. Training is a blend of biomotor abilities that is balanced and modified to prepare training.
(4) Placing foam rolling after training takes advantage of the biochemistry and thermic effects of training- Doing it before removes time that athletes need to move and warm-up. When you are rolling you are doing compression work at one location of the body and that is so inefficient in regards to warming up. Static stretching is similar. Then activating small stabilizer muscles is even more wasteful, when prime movers are not awake except from some pain from following programs that cause poor tissue texture in the first place. You are still foam rolling but you are using it at a time that it be more lasting, such as between training. A far smarter investment is to roll after an BBB (Boo’s Bodybuilding Block) to take advantage of the endorphin and other relaxing agents so that the tissue can settle better. A more formal research article will be released later.